Robert Mapplethorpe is an American photography artist born in New York. Hi is best known for large scale and highly stylised black and white photographs. He specialised in nudes, self portraits, flowers, portraits and statuary subjects.
I find these abstract forms of body parts intriguing and inspiring due to the different shapes. The black and white colour grabs attention due to the boldness. The body parts are to some extent still recognisable, although upon first glance it is the shapely features that maintain the viewer’s attention. I admire the texture in fig.1 and I would like to recreate my own body of work styled around this. I believe this layer of applied sand creates an emergent and detailed aesthetic.
He studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, learning drawing, painting and sculpture. Mainly influenced by Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp. Cornell is an American artist, sculptor, and avant-garde film maker. Best known for creating glass boxes arranged with Victorian photographs, trinkets and other elements.
Marcel Duchamp was a French paint, sculpture, and writing artist. His works are affiliated with Dadaist and Surrealism. He became famous for his ‘ready-mades’ which were his own handmade art objects.
It is clear to see how Mapplethorpe was influenced by Duchamp’s Cubist style of work. He incorporates his use of nude models and abstract form to replicate this. Mapplethorpe started off by making collages using pictures from books and magazines. This inspired him to purchase a polaroid camera to begin composing his own photographs to add to his collages.
In the 70’s he documented his trip to the city of New York, with his photographs being labelled as ‘shocking’. Later in 1973 had his first exhibition called ‘Polaroid’s’ which was held at the Light Gallery in New York. The exhibition displayed 92 photographs out of the 1500 that he had created.
In 1975 he purchased a Hasselblad camera and began taking pictures of friends, and acquaintances.While also working on commercial projects such as creating an album cover for Patti Smith and Television, and portrait party images for Interview magazine. He took part in numerous group and solo exhibitions in America and Europe, including ‘documenta 6’ in Kass el, Germany.
Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith, Interview Magazine photographs.
He created multiple portraits over a number of years with Lisa Lyon, who is a body building champion. Images included portrait’s, figure studies, a film and book named ‘Lady: Lisa Lyon’.
I find these images empowering and moving. Although his model is of a muscular build, he has created an air of gracefulness whilst maintaining the masculinity of the model. He also introducing various techniques and formats such as, colour 20″x 24″ polaroid’s, photo gravures, cibachrome and dye transfer colour prints, and platinum prints on paper and linen.
He was diagnosed with aids in 1986, also having his work mounted for his first major American retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in the same year. Sadly, he passed away in 1988. The Robert Maplewood Foundation that he created still stands today, established in 1988 to promote photography also reserving his honor and legacy. Works currently exhibited in major museums and galleries around the world.