Mapplethorpe: A Biography

Patricia Morrisroe, Author
Patricia Morrisroe, Author Random House (NY) $27.5 (461p) ISBN 978-0-394-57650-3
Paperback - 516 pages - 978-0-306-80766-4
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The late photographer-provocateur, who died from AIDS-related illness in 1989, chose Morrisroe, a frequent contributor to New York magazine, as his biographer. The result is a deeply sympathetic portrait of one of the most controversial artists of the 20th century. His work offsets with luminous elegance and compositional rigor its sometimes shocking content: not only absurdly lush blossoms and haughty socialites but also male nudes and explicit sadomasochistic scenes that reflected his own obsessive forays into the Manhattan underworld. The book explores his rise in the vital art world of 1970s Manhattan as well as his bond with rocker Patti Smith, whom Dali described as ``a Gothic crow''; his sometimes loving, sometimes mutually exploitative relationship with his lover and patron, Sam Wagstaff; and the moving coincidence of his greatest critical successes occurring with the insidious and slow depredations of his illness. Although one sometimes longs for the nuanced appreciation of his work that an art historian would have offered, Morrisroe admirably balances frankness with sympathy in this memorable book. Photos not seen by PW. BOMC and QPB selections. (June)
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