Robert Mapplethorpe: The Archive

Frances Terpak and Michelle Brunnick. J. Paul Getty Trust, $49.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-60606-470-2
This sleek companion to a recent combined exhibition at the Getty Museum and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is a comprehensive collection of pictures and documents from the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s archive, gifted to the Getty and LACMA in 2011. Using over 400 images, the catalog provides a close inspection into each stage of the artist’s career—from the late 1960s to his death from AIDS in 1989—covering the gay icon’s start as a graphic artist at the Pratt Institute, his work as a commercial artist, and his famously provocative, sexually explicit portraits. Editors Terpak and Brunnick, both curators at the Getty, include a useful illustrated guide to the archive, which contains some of the artist’s personal correspondence, film stills, drawings, financial documents, exhibition invitations, and images of his handmade jewelry, collages, and sculptures. The emotional introductory essay by National Book Award–winning writer Patti Smith, Mapplethorpe’s close friend, conveys the artist’s insatiable appetite for images and his rapid leaps between methods and subjects. Smith writes of his drawings, “One by one he laid them before me: spidery images, intertwining words, a budding twig transforming as a bird, an etching of a flower’s blooming face, disembodied insects, and mandalas composed of a mystical calligraphy.” In another compelling essay, Jonathan Weinberg, critic at the Yale School of Art, explores issues of racial identity and sexual liberation that arise from Mapplethorpe’s work, and more generally ruminates on the role of archival research in cultural studies. This eclectic and visually stimulating book constitutes an important study of the artist’s work and enduring influence. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/14/2016
Release date: 03/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
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