Posts Tagged ‘Robert Mapplethorpe X Portfolio

17
Mar
13

Exhibition: ‘Robert Mapplethorpe: XYZ’ at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Exhibition dates: 21st October 2012 – 24th March 2013

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“The X Portfolio centers on men engaged in gay sex, including hard-core sadomasochism. The subject wasn’t entirely new. In Greek vase decorations, Indian miniatures and pagan temple sculptures, candid and highly refined sex pictures, heterosexual and homosexual, have been around since before Alexander the Great and the Mahabharata.”

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Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times Art Critic

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Robert Mapplethorpe made photographs of hard-core sadomasochistic gay sex. Robert Mapplethorpe made photographs of hard-core sadomasochistic gay sex. Robert Mapplethorpe made photographs of hard-core sadomasochistic gay sex. Robert Mapplethorpe made photographs of hard-core sadomasochistic gay sex.

A fist up an arse, a finger down the penis, a dildo up the bum. These photographs are seminal images in the work of the artist and yet we never get to see them online. Would it be too shocking for the sensibilities of the gallery or the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation that these cause célèbre images, five of which were used as evidence in the obscenity trial of Director Dennis Barrie and the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center in 1990, were actually seen?

Instead we have two tame representations from the X Portfolio in the posting.

If you go to the slick Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation website, what do you find in the portfolio section: tasteful self portraits, male nudes, female nudes, flowers, portraits, statuary. Nothing to suggest that Mapplethorpe was one of the most transgressive artists of the twentieth century, an artist who documented an essential element of gay culture AS ART, who famously said that there was nothing shown in his photographs that he hadn’t done himself. Not an inkling, not a whisper, not a bull whip up the arse to be found. This is the sanitised vision of the artist – the desire, the pleasure, the release of living, re-shackled under the commercialisation of brand Mapplethorpe.

It’s like the Foundation is afraid of the artist’s shadow. On their website they state that the Foundation was set up by Mapplethorpe in part to protect his work and advance his creative vision. The X Portfolio and his early work are part of that vision, deserving to be seen by everyone – online!

Marcus

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Many thankx to The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) for allowing me to publish some of the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a a larger version of the image.

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Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Y Portfolio' 1978

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Y Portfolio
1978
37.7 x 35.5 x 4.9 cm closed
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Partial Gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the David Geffen Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Cedric, N.Y.C. (X Portfolio)' 1978

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Cedric, N.Y.C. (X Portfolio)
1978
19.5 x 19.5 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Partial Gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the David Geffen Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Irises, N.Y.C. (Y Portfolio)' 1977

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Irises, N.Y.C. (Y Portfolio)
1977
19.5 x 19.5 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Partial Gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the David Geffen Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Jim, Sausalito (X Portfolio)' 1977

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Jim, Sausalito (X Portfolio)
1977
19.5 x 19.5 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Partial Gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the David Geffen Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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“The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents three portfolios created by American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989). The exhibition, Robert Mapplethorpe: XYZ, features a total of thirty-nine black-and-white photographs, exploring three subject matters: homosexual sadomasochistic imagery (X, published in 1978); flower still lifes (Y, 1978); and nude portraits of African American men (Z, 1981). LACMA’s presentation will showcase the works in three rows - X above, Y in the middle, and Z along the bottom – an idea which was suggested by Mapplethorpe in 1989.

“Robert Mapplethorpe is among the most important photographic artists of the twentieth century,” comments Britt Salvesen, Department Head and Curator of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department at LACMA. “The X, Y, and Z portfolios not only defined the artist’s career, but also played a role in an important moment of American cultural politics that is still pertinent to us today.”

This is the first presentation of Mapplethorpe’s work since last year’s widely publicized joint acquisition by LACMA, The J. Paul Getty Museum, and The Getty Research Institute of Mapplethorpe’s art and archives – including over 1,900 editioned prints and over 1,000 non-editioned prints, 200 unique mixed-media objects, over 160 Polaroids, 120,000 negatives, and extensive working materials, ephemera, and documents. The majority of the acquisition originated as a generous gift from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, and the remainder of the funds provided by the David Geffen Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Concurrent with the LACMA exhibition, The J. Paul Getty Museum presents In Focus: Robert Mapplethorpe, on view October 23, 2012 – March 24, 2013. This single-gallery exhibition reviews the artist’s work from the early 1970s to the late 1980s, and features editioned prints, rarely seen mixed-media objects, and Polaroids that depict a wide range of subject matter including self-portraits, nudes, and still lifes. A larger Mapplethorpe retrospective, jointly organized by LACMA and the Getty, is planned for 2016.

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About the artist

Born in 1946, Robert Mapplethorpe grew up in the suburban area of Floral Park, Queens. As a student at the Pratt Institute in New York, he studied drawing, painting, and sculpture and experimented with various materials in mixed-media collages. When Mapplethorpe acquired a Polaroid camera in 1970, he began incorporating his own photos into his constructions. His first solo gallery exhibition, Polaroids, took place at Light Gallery in New York City in 1973.

Two years later he transitioned from the Polaroid to a Hasselblad medium format camera and began shooting his circle of friends and acquaintances. His subjects – artists, musicians, socialites, pornographic film stars, and members of the S & M underground – came from a variety of backgrounds. Mapplethorpe’s interest in documenting the New York S&M scene was strongest in the late 1970s, when he produced photographs with shocking content but remarkable technique and formal mastery. In 1978, the Robert Miller Gallery in New York City became his exclusive dealer. Throughout the 1980s, Mapplethorpe produced images that challenged and adhered to classical aesthetic standards including stylized compositions of male and female nudes, delicate flower still lifes, and studio portraits of artists and celebrities. He explored and refined different techniques and formats – including color 20” x 24” Polaroids, photogravures, platinum prints on paper and linen, Cibachrome and dye transfer color processes – but gelatin silver printing remained his primary medium.

In 1986, Robert Mapplethorpe was diagnosed with AIDS. Despite his illness, he accelerated his creative efforts, broadened the scope of his photographic inquiry, and accepted numerous commissions. The Whitney Museum of American Art mounted his first major American museum retrospective in 1988, one year before his death in 1989. Beyond the art historical and social significance of his work, his legacy lives on through the work of Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, which he established in 1988 to promote photography, support museums that exhibit photographic art, and to find medical research in the fight against AIDS and HIV related infection.

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Exhibition history

Mapplethorpe’s work has historically provoked strong reactions, most notably during the so-called Culture Wars of the 1980s, a period of conflict between conservative and liberal factions. The traveling retrospective, The Perfect Moment, opened at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia in 1988. Among the 150 photographs and objects in the show were the sadomasochistic imagery of Mapplethorpe’s X portfolio, as well as the Y and Z portfolios; the show appeared in two venues without any incident. When it was due to open at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., during the summer of 1989, politicians who opposed federal funding for the arts became alarmed. The Corcoran canceled the exhibition, resulting in a protest against the gallery’s withdrawal of the show. Controversy ensued further at a subsequent venue, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, where charges of obscenity were brought against director David Barrie. In this high-profile trial, five images from the X portfolio were used as evidence. Barrie was acquitted, and Mapplethorpe has been linked to debates about censorship ever since.”

Press release from The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) website

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Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Carnation, N.Y.C. (Y Portfolio)' 1978

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Carnation, N.Y.C. (Y Portfolio)
1978
19.5 x 19.5 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Partial Gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the David Geffen Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Alistair Butler, N.Y.C. (Z Portfolio)' 1980

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Alistair Butler, N.Y.C. (Z Portfolio)
1980
Gelatin Silver Print
19.5 x 19.5 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Partial Gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the David Geffen Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Leigh Lee, N.Y.C. (Z Portfolio)' 1980

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Leigh Lee, N.Y.C. (Z Portfolio)
1980
Gelatin Silver Print
19.5 x 19.5 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Partial Gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the David Geffen Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Rose, N.Y.C. (Y Portfolio)' 1977

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Rose, N.Y.C. (Y Portfolio)
1977
Gelatin silver print
Image 19.5 x 19.5 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Partial Gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the David Geffen Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Z Portfolio' 1978

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Z Portfolio
1978
37.7 x 35.5 x 4.9 cm closed
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Partial Gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the David Geffen Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard (at Fairfax Avenue)
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
T: 323 857-6000

Opening Hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: noon-8 pm
Friday: noon-9 pm
Saturday, Sunday: 11am-8 pm
closed Wednesday

LACMA website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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