This third and final room of the Robert Mapplethorpe display is a unique gathering of his remarkable self-portraits.
While Mapplethorpe’s use of sexual imagery was often controversial, some of his most striking photographs were made by turning the camera on himself. The twenty self-portraits gathered here - a concentration unique to ARTIST ROOMS - trace a period from 1975 until 1988. Chameleon-like, Mapplethorpe acted out roles for his own gaze, alternating vanity and confession. In the earlier works, these could be both oblique and provocatively explicit about his sexuality.
What lends this collection of self-portraits an especial fascination is the way in which the masquerade adds up to a pictorial autobiography. Mapplethorpe could present himself as a vulnerable figure in furs and make-up, or as a leather-clad tough wielding knife. The successive images also chronicle the passage of time, played out on the artist’s face. As in so much else, Mapplethorpe was unflinching in the photographs that he continued to take of himself as he succumbed to AIDS. They constitute a stark confrontation with mortality.