Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 in Floral Park, Queens. Of his childhood he said, “I come from suburban America. It was a very safe environment and it was a good place to come from in that it was a good place to leave.”
In 1963, Mapplethorpe enrolled at Pratt Institute in nearby Brooklyn, where he studied drawing, painting, and sculpture. Influenced by artists such as Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp, he also experimented with various materials in mixed-media collages, including images cut from books and magazines. He acquired a Polaroid camera in 1970 and began producing his own photographs to incorporate into the collages, saying he felt “it was more honest.” That same year he and Patti Smith, whom he had met three years earlier, moved into the Chelsea Hotel.
His vast, provocative, and powerful body of work has established him as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. Today Mapplethorpe is represented by galleries in North and South America and Europe and his work can be found in the collections of major museums around the world. Beyond the art historical and social significance of his work, his legacy lives on through the work of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. He established the Foundation in 1988 to promote photography, support museums that exhibit photographic art, and to fund medical research in the fight against AIDS and HIV-related infection.
I do not see these images as homoerotic like some people might, I see them as showcasing the human form. The photographs really show the lines and curves of the male form, they do not contain faces, so they are more like sculptures of the body. I love how he has used the lighting to pick up every crease on the bodies. The second image is really interesting to me because I love how the figure looks almost fractured, as if It couldn’t be bent that way in real life, and how it looks as if he is hiding from something, maybe the world.
I also like Mapplethorpe’s photographs of female nudes, he also showcases them like sculptures as if he is making them into art.