“My work is about seeing –seeing things like they haven’t been seen before.”
Robert Mapplethorpe (Floral Park, New York, 1946 – Boston, Massachusetts, 1989) is renowned for his balanced, harmonious, and unflinching black and white photographs. The artist studied drawing, painting, and sculpture at the Pratt Institute of Art. While initially drawn to conceptual art, Mapplethorpe began taking Polaroids in 1970 to incorporate into mixed media collages, which ultimately led to his decision to dedicate his career to photography. In 1973, he had his first solo exhibition at the Light Gallery. Two years later, he obtained a Hasselblad medium format camera and began to photograph his friends and acquaintances, including other artists, socialites, and members of the gay male S&M subculture flourishing in the city at the time, the latter of which partially comprised his controversial X Portfolio. In the 1980s, he shifted his focus to male and female nudes, often in classical poses, formal portraits of celebrities, and delicate flower still lifes. He was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986. Before his death, he established the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to promote his photography, support museums that exhibited photographic art, and fund medical research for the fight against AIDS and HIV. His work is renowned for both its social and artistic significance.