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Polaroids: Mapplethorpe

Henry Art Gallery
Seattle WA – Oct 24-Jan 31, 2010

Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled [Patti Smith]

Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled [Patti Smith] (1973), monochromatic dye diffusion transfer print (Polaroid) [Henry Art Gallery, Seattle WA, Oct 24-Jan 31]

Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled [Self-Portrait]

Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled [Self-Portrait] (1970/73), monochromatic dye diffusion transfer print (Polaroid) [Henry Art Gallery, Seattle WA, Oct 24-Jan 31]

Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled [Nancy Nortia]

Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled [Nancy Nortia] (1973/75), monochromatic dye diffusion transfer print (Polaroid) [Henry Art Gallery, Seattle WA, Oct 24-Jan 31]

The American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) was notorious for his controversial images of erotic male nudes. Mapplethorpe is also well known for his elegant photographs of stark but graceful flowers, sleek and elegant figure studies, and stylized portraits of artists and celebrities. He began his photographic journey in 1970 with a Polaroid camera that facilitated the process of making of imagery for mixed media collages. Finding gratification in the instant medium, Mapplethorpe created more than 1,500 images with a Polaroid camera between 1970-75 before developing his polished studio style.

The early Polaroids have had limited exposure. They are distinguished by the immediacy of expression that occurs through such a direct process. Mapplethorpe's frank depictions of friends, lovers and acquaintances in New York's art and music circles capture the “trueness” of a moment. Most notable are portraits of Marianne Faithfull and several images of an aloof Patti Smith, who was also his roommate.

The 90 pieces on exhibit are intrinsically realistic and expose vulnerability through spontaneity. While Mapplethorpe's Polaroids are not as crafted and refined as his later medium format photography, the intimate and experimental images embody elements of his mature style. They also provide a unique glimpse of an artist during a formative period of creative development.

www.henryart.org

Allyn Cantor


 Sun, Dec 13, 2009