Bringing together over 300 images from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation’s archive and private collections to provide a critical view of Mapplethorpe’s formative years as an artist, revealing the themes that would inspire Mapplethorpe throughout his career.
Included is a selection of colour Polaroids and objects incorporating his early instant photography. Conveying a disarming tenderness and vulnerability, others a toughness and immediacy that would give way in later years to more classical form. The author traces the development of Mapplethorpe’s use of instant photography over a period of five years, from 1970 to 1975, when the artist worked mainly in this medium.
The images include self-portraits; figure studies; still lifes; portraits of lovers and friends such as Patti Smith, Sam Wagstaff, and Marianne Faithful; and observations of everyday objects. Marked by a spontaneity and creative curiosity, these fragile images offer an illuminating contrast to the glossy perfection of the work for which Mapplethorpe is best known, allowing us a more personal glimpse of his artistry.