I’m looking for the unexpected. I’m looking for things I’ve never seen before.
Robert Mapplethorpe grew up on the outskirts of New York in a Catholic environment, with no ties to the art world. In 1963 he enrolled at the Pratt Institute of Art, in Brooklyn, where he studied drawing, painting and sculpture, and began to delve into the work of artists such as Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp. In 1970 he acquired a Polaroid camera and started taking his first photographs, which he started incorporating to his collages. Progressively he abandoned collage to focus exclusively on photography, presenting in 1973 his first solo exhibition, Polaroids, at the Light Gallery, New York. During the following years Mapplethorpe intensely immersed himself in the hurricane of New York’s art scene, in a search to find his place, rapidly achieving an enormous social and cultural recognition.
Mapplethorpe attended the Pratt Institute of Art at a time marked by artistic currents such as body art, minimal and conceptual art, which made use of photography detached from its formal or aesthetic side. In this context, Mapplethorpe rescued the formal emphasis that photography allows and incorporated it into his previous conceptual research. This process resulted in raw and direct images of sadomasochism combined with the most meticulous compositional direction, pure sexual acts with the most exact pictorial classicism, or a simple flower with the most exaggerated sensuality and eroticism. Mapplethorpe’s poetics demonstrated a total fusion between art and life, aesthetics and reality, in which his own life was placed at the centre.
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