Friday, August 04, 2006

To do: Edinburgh

The National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, Scotland has just opened a Mapplethorpe retrospective of a collection of his portraits. First Mapplethorpe show in Great Britain in 10 years...

Mapplethorpe was at his best photographing people. He was particularly good at photographing children, which may seem uncomfortably at odds with his images of sadomasochistic sex scenes, in which he was an enthusiastic participant as well as a chronicler. He once said that he wanted to make a statement about his times.

His art, inescapably and irretrievably, belongs to the 1970s and 80s. He helped create a look as well as commenting on it. Or perhaps it wasn't so much a look as an atmosphere: cool, dark, edgy, dangerously sexy, horrifically hip, hard and brittle.

Flesh in his photographs might ripple, glow, tense and bulge, but it's all surface (sometimes a surface turned inside out), and it is obvious now that for him photography was all surface, only surface, all light, all shadow. Even if this is always, finally, the truth of photography, he turned this into metaphor, as the best photographers do.

View the whole sample gallery...


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