200708: Whitney Museum of American Art: Polaroids: Mapplethorpe

Whitney Museum of American Art: Polaroids: Mapplethorpe Fast love In 2003 Sylvia Wolf, curator of the Whitney Museum, discovered the 1.500 Polaroid photos taken by the young Robert Mapplethorpe between the years 1970 and 1975. The current exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art brings together a selection of his work, some of which has never been shown before. The show presents a mixture of elegant as well as shocking depictions of sexual obsessions - provoking so many scandals in later years - as well as self portraits and portraits of friends. These small photographs, in contrast to Mapplethorpe's the studio-staged images of the 80’s, have a sensitive impact on the viewer. Among them portraits of Patti Smith and Marianne Faithful, which initiate an unexpected tenderness and vulnerability. His Polaroids can be compared to a huge sketchbook: full of figure studies and bizarre still lifes. There are two nostalgic aspects to this exhibit: first, in view of the fact that Polaroid cameras are no longer being produced since March 2008, these photos are a homage to instant photography - nowadays substituted by video and digital photography. And second, Mapplethorpe’s work reminds of how light-heartedly homosexuality was lived before AIDS even existed. Mapplethorpe died at the early age of 42 as a result of an HIV infection. We don’t know how the artist would have dealt with the opportunities offered by digital technologies, but most probably he would have been fascinated it. He was not a friend of time-consuming work processes. “If I had to do something, which takes two weeks, I would lose my enthusiasm. It would become something like lab work, and my love for the whole thing would disappear”, he once said. Whitney Museum of American Art 10001 New York, 945 Madison Avenue, until 07. 09. 2008 www.whitney.org

Whitney Museum of American Art
10001 New York, 945 Madison Avenue

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