Revisiting Robert Mapplethorpe
During his life, Robert Mapplethorpe was famous for his breathtaking photographs, which ran the gamut from floral still lifes to some very controversial shots depicting sadomasochistic themes. Now 17 years after Mapplethorpe’s death, he’s perhaps better known than ever thanks to his central role in cultural artifacts like Patti Smith’s 2010 bestseller Just Kids and a gobsmacking number of cultural events celebrating his work.
In April, HBO will premiere Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, a documentary on Mapplethorpe’s life and work by filmmakers Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey. A month earlier, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum will launch a joint exhibition, Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium, a sprawling exhibition including not only his photographs but also drawings, collages, sculptures and Polaroids. In conjunction with the exhibitions, two gorgeous books—Robert Mapplethorpe: The Photographs and Robert Mapplethorpe: The Archive—are being released to catalogue some of the photographer’s most memorable works. As Smith herself writes in the introduction to Archive, “Robert’s archive is a gift for those who seek to comprehend the genesis of his work, his emotional range, his heightened imagination and the progressive steps of his evolution.”
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