Playing with the Edge: The Photographic Achievement of Robert Mapplethorpe

Arthur Coleman Danto, Author
Arthur Coleman Danto, Author University of California Press $39.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-520-20051-7
Reviewed on: 10/02/1995
Release date: 10/01/1995
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The erotically candid photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, who died of AIDS in 1989, became the focus for the controversy over federal funding of the arts. Danto, professor emeritus of philosophy at Columbia and an art critic for the Nation, proclaims that Mapplethorpe produced ``some of the most shocking and indeed some of the most dangerous images in modern photography, or even in the history of art.'' While acknowledging the ostensibly pornographic content of many of Mapplethorpe's photographs, especially his sadomasochistic pictures, Danto argues that the work transcends pornography because of the ``moral relationship between subject and artist,'' a core of trust that made his photographs explorations, risks and revelations. Mapplethorpe's subjects, he writes, are touched with a beauty and transcendence that lift them above their tawdry surroundings. Danto won the 1990 National Book Critics Circle prize for criticism for Encounters and Reflections. Illustrated. (Oct.)
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