Mapplethorpe, Mapplethorpe, Mapplethorpe, oh you wonderful Mapplethorpe. A permanent fixture on my inspiration lists, his lighting still blows my mind. Wonderful spiritual leader, he is my Pope. God. Anything. Everything.
Robert Mapplethorpe (November 4, 1946 – March 9, 1989) was an American photographer, known for his large-scale, highly stylized black and white portraits, photos of flowers and naked men. The frank, homosexual eroticism of some of the work of his middle period triggered a more general controversy about the public funding of artworks.
Mapplethorpe worked primarily in the studio, particularly towards the end of his career. Common subjects include flowers, especially orchids and calla lilies; celebrities, including Andy Warhol, Deborah Harry, Richard Gere, Peter Gabriel, Grace Jones, and Patti Smith (a Patti Smith portrait from 1986 recalls Albrecht Dürer's 1500 self-portrait); homoerotic and BDSM acts (including coprophagia), and classical nudes. Mapplethorpe's X Portfolio series sparked national attention in the early 1990s when it was included in The Perfect Moment, a traveling exhibition funded by National Endowment for the Arts. The portfolio includes some of Mapplethorpe's most explicit imagery, including a self-portrait with a bullwhip inserted in his anus. Though his work had been regularly displayed in publicly funded exhibitions, conservative and religious organizations, such as the American Family Association seized on this exhibition to vocally oppose government support for what they called "nothing more than the sensational presentation of potentially obscene material." As a result, Mapplethorpe became something of a cause celebre for both sides of the American Culture war. The installation of The Perfect Moment in Cincinnati resulted in the unsuccessful prosecution of the Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati and its director, Dennis Barrie, on charges of "pandering obscenity".
His sexually-charged photographs of black men have been criticized as exploitative. Such criticism was the subject of a work by American conceptual artist Glenn Ligon, Notes on the Margins of the Black Book (1991-1993). Ligon juxtaposes several of Mapplethorpe's most iconic images of black men appropriated from the 1988 publication, Black Book, with various critical texts to complicate the racial undertones of the imagery.