A Quick Bit on Robert Mapplethorpe
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A Quick Bit on Robert Mapplethorpe

Who was Robert Mapplethorpe?

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A Quick Bit on Robert Mapplethorpe
The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

So, like the first or second day of my topics in contemporary art class, we learned about a guy named Robert Mapplethorpe, an openly gay photographer who was famous for his controversial photographs, especially his self portraits. Born on November 4th, 1946 and passing away on March 9th, 1989, Mapplethorpe's legacy, and photos, still live on to this day.

Mapplethorpe focused a lot on composition, balance, color, and texture in his work. This was especially important, as he used a black and white Polaroid camera to take the pictures.

Because of the nature of his photo books, most, if not all of them, are considered to be banned books. Most of his work contained rather explicit images of the gay interracial BDSM scene in New York City, as well as similarly themed self portraits of himself. Though, some of his work, specifically that later on in his career, was more innocent, such as pictures of flowers and children.

There was an instance where, postmortem, his famous bullwhip self portrait was used to display that tax money should no longer help fund art, especially that which could be seen as offensive. In this image, Mapplethorpe has his back turned to his Polaroid camera, somewhat bent down, with the back end of a bullwhip inserted into his anus. For the curious, here is a link to that specific image.

Now, if you clicked the link to the picture, you might understand why the public was pretty upset about their tax dollars funding similar art. Though, the public didn't really know this guy existed until his work, after death, was used for such an argument. Because the internet didn't really exist back then, you had to physically go and either buy or borrow photo books, or go to a museum and see the pieces. It's not like you could just take a picture and post it up on Facebook, get a billion shares, and cause public upheaval during this time.

Take his art for what you will, but I personally find none of it offensive. Art is art, no matter how avant garde it is. If you'd like to learn more about Robert Mapplethorpe, this website has a lot of additional information, and this one showcases a lot of his work.

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