A feature length film on Robert Mapplethorpe

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by Mainecoonmaniac, Jan 7, 2019.

  1. Mainecoonmaniac

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  2. Maris

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    That movie will be of interest as to whether it is a biopic extolling the legend of Robert Mapplethorpe as a celebrity or a insight into why Mapplethorpe could not fail to become famous.

    Remember, Robert Mapplethorpe started off as an occasional Polaroid clicker and would have remained so if he had not become the boyfriend of Sam Wagstaff, a multimillionaire art connoisseur and collector. Backed by unlimited funds and relentless encouragement Robert had access to the best cameras, best film, best assistants, best set builders, best lighting guys, best film developing and printing services, best models, and a gold pass (courtesy of Sam) to the most prestigious exhibition spaces in New York. No art-world critic would dare an adverse critique otherwise they would have to answer to Sam.

    The American public had a role to play. At the time there was a fascination with the demi-monde world of gay life but very few people would actually enter that world to experience it first hand. But by going to a photographic exhibition they could satisfy prurient curiosity and not catch AIDS from the pictures.

    The photographic legacy attributed to Robert Mapplethorpe is certainly spectacular but I occasionally entertain the (unworthy?) thought that many at Photrio, given the same endless money, support, and publicity, could achieve as good or better. And I'll definitely see the movie if it gets an Australian release.
     
  3. slackercrurster

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    Concur.

    He was popular because he was a darling of the art world, queer and died of aids.
     
  4. OP
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    Mainecoonmaniac

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    I remember in the late 80's and early 90's I saw his show in Los Angeles. I can't remember if he died already or if he was dying, but it was his final works. Towards the end of his life, my impression of his work back then was that it's much tamer and he was embracing his mortality. In his self-portraits, he looked gaunt and his hair was wispy. He also did a lot more still-lifes. Back then, homosexuality was not accepted like today. It sparked a political storm with the NEA and Jesse Helm wanted to kill the NEA.
     
  5. RalphLambrecht

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  6. tezzasmall

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    I read a book about RM a little while ago and it gave you the highs and lows and things to like and dislike about him.

    Personally, I have always wondered if RM would have been so big if he hadn't paired up with his great darkroom printer, Tom Baril. Even RM's father is quoted in the book, as he wondered why his son didn't (or couldn't?) do any of his own film developing and printing.

    Terry S
     
  7. jawarden

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    I was an undergrad in Cincinnati at the time and saw “The Perfect Moment” at Contemporary Arts Center just as the shit was hitting the fan. Big crowds, police, a lasting embarrassment for the city, and a show that was less shocking (the sex) and far more beautiful (everything else) than I expected it to be. It was an education.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/ente...59f5e244f92_story.html?utm_term=.2746cd6ca1cf

    The trailer for this movie didn't do much for me really, and is unlikely to reach the storytelling power Patti Smith's beautiful book, "Just Kids", or the two very good movies about Mapplethorpe already available. "Mapplethorpe" has a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, not a good sign.

    As for Mapplethorpe's work, two thumbs up from me.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
  8. jtk

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    My thinking is that RM was a highly accomplished commercial studio photographer. Strong graphic compositions, fine studio lighting. That he had a great printer is irrelevant, since most commercial studio photographers have that when necessary. Great printers abound in NY and CA. There were (and always have been) many gay/porn photographers of similar capability, distinctive aesthetics, and similar motivations but RM did catch the attention of mass media and various religionists/politicians.

    He may have been burdened in some way by mass media attention, but he (and/or Wagstaff) seemed to have courted that.

    Working in San Francisco when RM became popular, my sense was that he wasn't particularly of interest to the arts-oriented people I worked with. He may have appealed mostly to fanboy types who weren't familiar with people like Irving Penn, Avedon et al.

    I'll just mention that I never did like Lou Reed :smile: But I do like Patti Smith.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
  9. ann

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    There was a movie last year on hbo , it was+interesting once=I got passed the first 30 minutes of penises

    On the other=hand he was a master (imho) of black and white=flowers and in fact started his day shooting flowers
    Also he has some fabulous portraits

    I saw the s&m work and it was technically good I found it boring. However,it certainly created a fire storming he art world
     
  10. btaylor

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    Not sure how that last statement was supposed to read. There was a firestorm, though not in the art world, it was those outside of it that got crazy. The gay s&m stuff hit a nerve when it went kinda mainstream in public art venues.
     
  11. ann

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    Sorry I wasn’t clear. The=government/went nuts and wanted to shut down the national art foundation. Don’t remember the exact name
    As I rember I don’t think they talked about that in the movie but I do remember the outcry about the work
     
  12. OP
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    Mainecoonmaniac

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    His work back in the day (The 80') before the internet, was shocking for most because it was a culture that existed but not many people knew about it. Now is not shocking at all with porn of all genres being somewhat mainstream and made it's way into American culture. I'm sure there are some that are not into porn, but wanted to see the work of Stormy Daniels after Trump paid her hush money. I don't see Mapplethorpe's work or porn as immorality. It's just the world changing. For better or for worst, I don't know.
     
  13. jawarden

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    I agree, and think as with most artists they are best understood with knowledge of the artist's life and the times they lived in. Mapplethorpe's work is richer for me because I was artistically active at that time, appreciated photography, knew nothing about the pre-internet sex acts I was about to see, and was fascinated with the overkill response of the very conservative Cincinnati to the exhibition. It was a complete government shitshow from bottom to top, and the spectacle was an education.
     
  14. OP
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    Mainecoonmaniac

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    Yes it was a shit show. IMHO, art shouldn't be politicized. I think back then, the cost to each US citizen or the NEA was 1/4¢ and Mapplethorpe's show as well as the show with Andre Serrano's "Piss Christ" was only a fraction of NEA's budget. I think most of the budget goes to art education, not exhibitions anyway.
     
  15. TheFlyingCamera

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    The HBO documentary "Look At The Pictures" is excellent, IMHO. Well worth checking out if you haven't seen it. I'll try and find this new one to watch, just to be a completist. I know a few folks who knew him, but haven't gotten them to tell tales out of school about him yet.
     
  16. jawarden

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    Just an FYI for those interested and close to NYC. I received this today from the Guggenheim:

    Starting January 25, we invite you explore the work of groundbreaking New York photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe. One of the most critically acclaimed yet controversial artists of the late twentieth century, Mapplethorpe’s powerful body of work includes documentation of the New York S&M scene, artist and celebrity friends, male and female nudes, flowers, as well as self-portraits. Learn more: https://gu.gg/2yJMKIe
     
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