Marc Selwyn Fine Art is pleased to present “Black, white and silver,” a major exhibition of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe. It will be the third exhibition by the artist at the gallery.
Mapplethorpe's photographs exemplify classical ideals of form and proportion. Reminiscent of the work of Edward Weston, with their controlled relationships between light and shadow, balance and asymmetry, beauty and obscenity, Mapplethorpe images clearly presage a more contemporary interest with the body and a consciousness of self. Sculptural forms are achieved through dramatically and intensely lighting the body, creating abstract figures that cease to be strictly male or female, black or white but fluid ambiguous beings free of racial or gender distinctions. In works such as Lydia Cheng, 1985, Mapplethorpe applied silver toned makeup to further obscure the color of her skin. Torsos evoke the sculpture of Jean Arp and in some cases, Mapplethorpe goes so far as to replace the human subject with classical sculpture marble. Germano Celant writes:
In every detail, the sculptural and photographic material reflects the intense incandescence and efflorescence of the torsos, legs, faces, and hands. Muscles and skin appear in a state of ebullition, as though fraught with explosive force. Even when Rodin and Mapplethorpe break up the body into parts, focusing their gaze on back or thigh, penis or vagina, arm or neck, navel to armpit, the “cut” does not lessen the energy’s grip; instead, the body part finds its powerful truth. This kindles a sensual vertigo fed by the pleasures of the flesh, male or female, black or white. The result is the offering of a body cleansed of all impurities, sexual or racial, moralistic or ideological.
Celebrated and censored, revered and reviled, demonized and deified, Robert Mapplethorpe's work has never been less than controversial. Since Mapplethorpe's untimely death in 1989, his work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions in museums throughout the world, including Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou in Paris, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. His work is widely collected, and he is considered one of the most important photographers of the twentieth century.