Mapplethorpe first came to prominence in the 1970s, when he abandoned making sculptural assemblages to concentrate on photography. He used the immediacy of the medium to chronicle his friends within the New York art scene, capturing their expressiveness through a sequence of carefully conceived and posed images. As the works in these rooms show, Mapplethorpe favoured isolating the face or the figure in plain settings and using precise lighting to throw their features into crisp relief.
Many of those whom Mapplethorpe photographed were key cultural figures. The architect Philip Johnson and the writer William Burroughs have rather formidable presences, while Louise Bourgeois appears gleefully mischievous. Some of the most memorable images are of the poet and singer Patti Smith, one of Mapplethorpe’s closest companions, whose memoir Just Kids 2010 recalls their early life in New York.
Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) was born in Queens, New York. He lived and worked in New York City.