Robert Mapplethorpe

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GALERIE THADDAEUS ROPAC – MARAIS
ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE
OBJECTS
Opening: Friday 10 March 2017 | 6- 8pm
Exhibition: 10. March – 29. April 2017
7 RUE DEBELLEYME, FR-75003 PARIS
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La Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac présente Objects, de Robert Mapplethorpe réunissant un ensemble d’œuvres  rares et uniques exposées pour la première fois à Paris
Dès la fin des années soixante, Mapplethorpe commence à élaborer des objets tridimensionnels, de montages photographiques, des collages utilisant des matériaux souvent très diverses et  hétéroclites. Par l’étendue des techniques qu’il utilise, ces œuvres démontrent son engagement dans une démarche créatrice et très personnelle  qu’il développera tout au long de sa vie. Elles révèlent sa fascination pour des sujets tels que le mysticisme, l’ésotérisme et le fétichisme. Sur le plan du style et de l’iconographie, elles constituent un mélange étonnant entre les ready-mades de Marcel Duchamp et les divagations psychosexuelles de Dali. Passionné par les symboles et les motifs géométriques, Mapplethorpe réalise de nombreux collages et assemblages en recyclant -tout en les transgressant- des images religieuses. Il explore également des sujets plus sombres comme la magie noire ou l’art du Tantra et redessine des cartes de Tarot en remplaçant l’iconographie classique par des figures masculines tirées de magazines pornographiques masculins.
Sans jamais avoir peur d’enfreindre les règles ou de choquer, il a contribué à étendre la notion de ce qu’il est possible de faire en art. Ces objets et collages, d’une poésie inouïe,  reflètent une approche radicale et souvent provocatrice, ancrée dans le contexte socioculturel du New York libertaire des années soixante-dix.

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Robert Mapplethorpe Jay – Kiss, 1973
Impression argentique, cadre de bois teinté sur mesure, poignée en verre,
fleur en résine pressée et écharpe en soie imprimée
119.4 x 43.2 x 5.5 cm (47.01 x 17.01 x 2.17 in)
© Robert Mapplethorpe foundation. Used with permission. Photo: Ulrich Ghezzi
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac presents the exhibition Objects, with unique early pieces by Robert Mapplethorpe shown for the first time in Paris.

Dating from the late sixties until the mid-eighties, these rarely exhibited works demonstrate Mapplethorpe’s range of techniques and his commitment to a personal vision throughout his life. Never afraid to offend or break rules, he expanded the notion of what is possible in art. These objects and collages reflect his radical and often provocative approach, embedded in the sociocultural context of the New York gay underground community.

Mapplethorpe’s early works seem inhabited by a mysterious and poetic power. They reveal his fascination for subjects such as mysticism, esotericism and fetishism. In style and iconography, they are an exciting mix between Duchamp’s ready-mades and Dali’s psychosexual divagations. Drawn to symbols and geometric motifs, Mapplethorpe made many collages and arrangements evoking religious imagery, while interpreting and transgressing its traditional associations. He also explored darker subjects such as black magic and Tantra Art, and redesigned Tarot cards, replacing the imagery with male figures taken from men’s pornographic magazines.

Included in the exhibition, a rare 1968 collage, Untitled (Madonna Medaillon), presents an image of the Madonna in a hand-drawn geometric architecture. In a manner reminiscent of Surrealism, the figure seems to levitate on a shell-like organic shape, which may also evoke an anatomical view of male genitalia. Outside the frame, a felt sticker representing the Sacred Heart of Jesus emblematises Mapplethorpe’s interest in recycling religious paraphernalia and mixing it with sexual references.

Jay Kiss (1973) highlights the fetishist dimension of Mapplethorpe’s work. On a red-painted wooden structure, a silk scarf hangs beneath an enlarged Polaroid portrait of his friend Jay Johnson. A token of a tender memory, the actual scarf is the one Jay wears in the picture, where he is lovingly represented with his eyes closed. The innovative composition recalls an ex-voto, usually given in gratitude or devotion in a religious context.

A later large triangle sculpture, Untitled (1983), shows the artist’s longstanding fascination for formal perfection and symmetry, largely drawn from the Christian liturgy. « A church has a certain magic and mystery for a child, » Mapplethorpe told Ingrid Sischy. « It still shows in how I arrange things. It’s always little altars. It’s always been this way-whenever I’d put something together I’d notice it was symmetrical.[1] »

Once again, Mapplethorpe plays with the ambivalence of the X symbol, which carries both a religious and pornographic connotation. While the inscription of his own name and the felt coloured stripes give a mystical dimension to what can be read as an abstract self-portrait.

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946–1989) was born and raised in Queens, New York, the third of six children in a middle-class, Roman Catholic family. From 1963 to 1969, Mapplethorpe attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he studied painting and sculpture, and majored in Graphic Arts. During these formative years he produced numerous drawings, collages and also three-dimensional objects using all kinds of media. In 1971 he started taking Polaroids and progressively included photography into his collages, along with cut-outs from books and magazine clippings. The instantaneity of the Polaroid and the intimacy of its format contributed to forge Mapplethorpe’s distinctive language of familiarity and seductiveness. It is only after 1975 that Mapplethorpe started to work exclusively with photography, when he was given a Hasselblad 500 camera by curator and collector Sam Wagstaff, who was also his mentor and lover.

Considered today as an essential part of his œuvre, a large selection of these early works have recently been acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Los Angeles Country Museum (LACMA). In 2016, the two institutions organized the largest retrospective of the artist to date. The corresponding catalogue Robert Mapplethorpe: The Archive published by the Getty Research Institute is the first publication entirely devoted to this period.

Quoted in Ingrid Sischy, «  A Society Artist » in Robert Mapplethorpe (Whitney Museum of  American Art, 1990), 82.

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