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U.S. (1946 - 1989)
Auto Portrait (with gun)
Gelatin silver print
15 1/8 x 15 1/8 in. (38.4 x 38.4 cm) image size;19 3/4 x 15 7/8 in. (50.2 x 40.3 cm) sheet size
Joseph and Elaine Monsen Photography Collection, gift of Joseph and Elaine Monsen and The Boeing Company
Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs have had an undeniable impact on the art world for the controversy they have stirred about the elegant treatment of difficult subject matter. His technically perfect and often shocking photographs of the gay, sado-masochistic subculture have won him his notorious, world-wide reputation, but his work also involves a wide range of celebrity portraits, self portraits, still lifes and flower arrangements. The square format, stark composition and formal arrangement dominate in Mapplethorpe's images. Concentrating on powerful male bodies, he juxtaposes them with the accoutrements of a tough sensibility -- guns, chains, and leather -- and builds careful composition out of decidedly nonconventional subject matter. As seen here in Auto Portrait (with Gun), Mapplethorpe portrays himself within an investigation of male sexuality and the iconography of power. One of the most controversial and, ultimately canonized photographers of our time, Mapplethorpe died of AIDS in 1989, at the peak of his critical acclaim. -- Label copy for After Art: Rethinking 150 Years of Photography, December 4, 1994 to March 26, 1995.
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