A man of many muses, Robert Mapplethorpe is a monument of modern photography. It is difficult to determine for what style he is most famous —from his portraits of Andy Warhol and other NYC proto-punks (including lover Patti Smith) to his Greco Romanesque male nudes, and all of his self portraits in between, Mapplethorpe’s career was as creatively full as could be. Los Angeles’ Getty Museum has a swath of the photographer’s work on display that makes clear his intersectional exploration of gender, race, and sexuality.
In what have become pop cultural mainstays of New York’s pre-punk movement, Mapplethorpe’s portraits of Patti Smith captured the Zeitgeist of punk before people could even begin to understand it —the powerful and iconoclastic femininity of Patti’s bushy mane, her slender frame accented by muted menswear, and an unapologetic gaze became the cover of her debut album, Horses.
Robert’s later work ran the gamut from floral still lifes to neoclassical nudes, but Mapplethorpe’s work never lost its penetrating perspective. Almost 25 years after his untimely death, his art and the foundation he formed continue to bring a renegade insight to the cultural conversation. If you’ll be in LA any time soon, take a trip to the Getty Center and see this incredible exhibition —before it’s too late! It will be open until March 24th.
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