“I went into photography because it seemed like the perfect vehicle for commenting on the madness of today’s existence,” Robert Mapplethorpe said, becoming himself one of the greatest and most controversial figures to ever master the form. Best known for his classical black and white portraits, nudes, and flowers produced in the 1970s and ‘80s, Mapplethrope rose to critical and commercial success before becoming a lightening rod for controversy and censorship in 1989, the year of his death.
Three decades later, his legacy endures, continuing to provoke, trigger, alarm, and disturb. “I don't like that particular word 'shocking.' I'm looking for the unexpected. I'm looking for things I've never seen before … I was in a position to take those pictures. I felt an obligation to do them,” he observed, creating a body of work that is as complex and compelling as it is polarizing and provocative.
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Photo: Robert Mapplethorpe American, 1946–1989. Flower Arrangement, 1986 Gelatin silver print. Image: 49 x 49 cm (19 5/16 x 19 5/16 in.) Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, L.2012.89.566. © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation