Art lover that I am, I’ll be the first one to admit that I didn’t really gain full appreciation for the highly homoerotic photography of the late Robert Mapplethorpe until after he passed away from AIDS related complications in 1989. Mapplethorpe, as a visual artist, was so far ahead of his time that it required some acclimation to his style for me to fully grasp what a groundbreaker he was, and the degree of creative talent he possessed. Through Saturday October 30th, the Robert Miller Gallery in Chelsea has a wonderful exhibit of selected works by Mapplethorpe that can serve as a broad introduction to his work, as well as being a reminder to fans of his legacy, which I believe has yet to achieve critical mass.
While Mapplethorpe was an artist who identified very much as a sexually adventurous gay man, he was by no means a one note. There are quite a few of his more “mainstream” photos and self-portraits (the one where tiny horns poke through his tousled brown hair is one of my favorites) and also the beautiful altar sculpture you see above, which really has to be viewed up close to appreciate the fine detail. But the exhibit also features examples of his grittier photographs, including sexual acts such as fisting, which are definitely for adults only. If you get squeamish at the thought of viewing a photo of Mapplethorpe posing with a bullwhip handle shoved up his ass, this probably isn’t the exhibit for you. But in light of the world we live in today, I find those photos humorous, even playful. You know he had to get a kick out of being such an instigator. Robert Mapplethorpe is another great artist who left us way too soon, but his art will live forever.
Selected works By Robert Mapplethorpe is on exhibit Tuesday to Saturday, 10 AM to 6 PM, through October 30, 2010 at the Robert Miller Gallery, 524 West 26th Street, New York, NY.