Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) is best known for his photographic work, particularly his controversial images of the BDSM scene in New York from the late 1960s and early 70s. But he only started working exclusively with photography after 1975, after he was given a Hasselband 500 camera by curator and collector Sam Wagstaff, also his mentor and lover. From 1963 to 1969, while studying painting and sculpture at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Mapplethorpe produced numerous drawings, collages and three-dimensional assemblages using all kinds of media and recycled objects. In 1971, he started taking Polaroids and progressively included photography into his collages, along with cut-outs from books and magazine clippings. Considered today as an essential part of his oeuvre, a large selection of these early works or objects was recently acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Los Angeles Country Museum (LACMA).
A new exhibition, Robert Mapplethorpe: Objects, at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Le Marais brings together a selection of these rare and unique works – photographic montages, collages and three-dimensional assemblages – produced by the artist from late 1960s onwards. On view for the first time in Paris, the exhibition shows Mapplethorpe’s exploration of sexuality, religion, esoterism and fetishism, revealing an altogether different side of his work and an extremely personal creative approach that he continued to develop all along his career. In terms of style and iconography, these objects are an unexpected mix between Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades and Salvador Dali’s psychosexual divagations.
Drawn to symbols and geometric motifs, Mapplethorpe’s collages and assemblages are made by recycling, interpreting and even transgressing religious imagery. He also explored darker subjects such as black magic or Tantra Art, and redesigned Tarot cards, replacing the imagery with male and female figures taken from pornographic magazines. These Objects reflect Mapplethorpe’s radical and innovative approach to the idea of what is possible in art.
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac