ABOVE: ‘Self-portrait’, 1980 (gelatin silver); ‘Self-portrait’, 1983 (gelatin silver); ‘Self-portrait’, 1980 (gelatin silver). BELOW: ‘Patti Smith’, 1979 (gelatin silver); ‘Marianne Faithfull’, 1974 (gelatin silver).
BELOW: ‘Deborah Harry’, 1978 (gelatin silver); ‘David Hockney’, 1976 (gelatin silver). BOTTOM: ‘Isabella Rossellini’, 1988 (gelatin silver); ‘Lucy Ferry’, 1986 (gelatin silver).
I wish I had a chance to post this before the exhibition closed but life just got in the way. Perfectly timed with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, the renowned work of Robert Mapplethorpe: the perfect medium was on show at the Art Gallery of NSW. He was a controversial figure who pushed boundaries and his art was ground breaking. His black and white photography is legendary but it was inspiring to see some of his work that I wasn’t familiar with. Being a designer, it was also nice to see some of the graphic examples from gay publications he collaborated with.
An enclosed room housed the more erotic images as well as his published books – X, Y and Z Portfolios. This three part book series details homosexual sadomasochistic imagery (X), floral still lifes (Y) and nude portraits of African-American men (Z). I loved the sculptural and evocative florals, shot in bold colour with a meticulous play of light and shadows. He was famous for celebrating the human form and his involvement in New York’s gay scene cultivated this, but his contemporary images also caused outrage.
His artistic methods and personal life are also detailed which is fascinating. Robert was friends with famous artists and musicians who he photographed regularly, including his muse Patti Smith. I idolised these icons so I couldn’t go past sharing them here and imagining the story behind each setting. Robert Mapplethorpe had an amazing but tragically short life, although he lives on in his pictures and as he would say ‘perfection in form’.