Wikipedia Biography [Astrology by Sy Scholfield]:
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 nude 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 was born and grew up as a Roman Catholic of English and Irish heritage in Our Lady of the Snows Parish in Floral Park, Queens, New York. His parents were Harry and Joan Mapplethorpe and he grew up with five brothers and sisters. He studied for a B.F.A. from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he majored in graphic arts, though he dropped out in 1969 before finishing his degree. Mapplethorpe lived with his partner Patti Smith from 19671974, and she supported him by working in bookstores. They created art together, and even after he realized he was gay they maintained a close relationship.
Mapplethorpe took his first photographs soon thereafter using a Polaroid camera. In the mid-1970s, he acquired a Hasselblad medium-format camera and began taking photographs of a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, including artists, composers, and socialites. In the 1980s he refined his aesthetic, photographing statuesque male and female nudes, delicate flower still lifes, and highly formal portraits of artists and celebrities. Mapplethorpe's first studio was at 24 Bond Street in Manhattan. In the 1980s, his mentor and lifetime companion, art curator Sam Wagstaff gave him $500,000 to buy the top-floor loft at 35 West 23rd Street, where he lived and had his shooting space. He kept the Bond Street loft as his darkroom.
Mapplethorpe died on the morning of March 9, 1989, 42 years old, in a Boston, Massachusetts hospital from complications arising from AIDS. His body was cremated and the ashes buried in Queens, New York, in his mother's grave, marked 'Maxey'.
Nearly a year before his death, the ailing Mapplethorpe helped found the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc. His vision for the Foundation was that it would be "the appropriate vehicle to protect his work, to advance his creative vision, and to promote the causes he cared about". Since his death, the Foundation has not only functioned as his official estate and helped promote his work throughout the world, it has also raised and donated millions of dollars to fund medical research in the fight against AIDS and HIV infection.
Mapplethorpe worked primarily in the studio, particularly towards the end of his career. Common subjects include flowers, especially orchids and calla lilies, and celebrities, including Andy Warhol, Deborah Harry, Richard Gere, Peter Gabriel, Grace Jones, and Patti Smith. Smith was a longtime roommate of Mapplethorpe and a frequent subject in his photography, including a stark, iconic photograph that appears on the cover of Smith's first album, Horses. Also, a Patti Smith portrait from 1986 recalls Albrecht Dürer's 1500 self-portrait.
Other work includes 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 célèbre 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 (19911993). 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.
In 1996, Patti Smith wrote a book The Coral Sea dedicated to Mapplethorpe.
In September 1999, Arena Editions published Pictures, a monograph that reintroduced Mapplethorpe's sex pictures. In 2000, Pictures was seized by two South Australian plain-clothes detectives from an Adelaide bookshop in the belief that the book breached indecency and obscenity laws. Police sent the book to the Canberra based Office of Film and Literature Classification after the state Attorney-General's Department deftly decided not to get involved in the mounting publicity storm. Eventually, the OFLC board agreed unanimously that the book, imported from the US, should remain freely available and unclassified.
In 2006, a Mapplethorpe print of Andy Warhol was auctioned for $643,200, making it the 9th most expensive photograph ever sold.
In May 2007, American writer, director, and producer James Crump directed the documentary film Black White + Gray, which premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. It explores the influence Mapplethorpe, curator Sam Wagstaff, and musician/poet Patti Smith had on the 1970s art scene in New York City.
In September 2007, Prestel published Mapplethorpe:Polaroids, a collection of 183 of approximately 1,500 existing Mapplethorpe polaroids. This book accompanies an exhibition by the Whitney Museum of American Art in May 2008.
Patti Smith's 2010 memoir Just Kids focuses on her relationship with Mapplethorpe.
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