Robert Mapplethorpe is best known for his photographic work -- sublime floral still lifes, dramatic portraits, elegant nudes and edgy homo-erotic images, yet it was not Mapplethorpe’s original intention to work in the photographic medium. From 1970 to 1974 he made primarily assemblage style constructions that merged found photographic images, objects and painting.
Following the gallery’s inaugural Mapplethorpe exhibition curated by Catherine Opie (2004) and Mapplethorpe-Warhol: Celebrity Portraits (2006), Marc Selwyn Fine Art is pleased to present a selection of more than thirty unique works from the 1970’s. This exhibition explores the foundations and experimental origins of Mapplethorpe’s more familiar themes and visual vocabulary. Rarely exhibited outside of the museum setting, these early works reveal the artist’s desire to explore the photograph as object therefore expanding upon the technical and aesthetic boundaries of traditional photography.
Trapezoidal and triangular shaped frames, sequential arrangements and images tinted with bands of color link his work to similar explorations found in the Minimalism of Frank Stella, Robert Mangold and Donald Judd. Found objects, such as mesh t-shirts or underwear, stretched over aluminum frames make reference to underground gay culture while the use of fabric, hand coloring and incongruent juxtapositions place this work within the boundaries of Conceptualism. Appropriating images from magazine advertisements and engaging the use of cinematic repetition recalls the work of Andy Warhol and places him in dialogue with contemporaries John Baldessari and Richard Prince. Mapplethorpe uses a variety of photographic techniques such as synthetic emulsions, dyed and sprayed surfaces and unconventional forms of matting, framing, glazing and collage to create one of a kind objects based in the photographic process.
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 Guggenehim Museum in New York. His work is widely collected, and considered part of the photographic canon of the twentieth century.