The saints and sinners of Robert Mapplethorpe’s (b.1946) iconic images go head to head in an exhibition at the Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, running until 25 January 2014, landing on the 25th anniversary of Mapplethorpe’s landmark exhibition, The Perfect Moment, which helped define his career. 54 images, uniquely joined into 27 pairs, set up dialogues between their partners and the artist who created them, displaying and celebrating a selection of pictures that have rarely been exhibited.
From behind the lens of his ever-prized Polaroid, Mapplethorpe presents an objective, classical view of the world he sees, always deftly subverting any moral implications, putting the onus on the viewer drawing their own conclusions. Nevertheless provocative and debate-stirring, documenting the likes of the New York S & M scene, Saints and Sinners allows the viewers to dig into the works and determine the connections between the snap pairs of pictures Sean Kelly match up, sometimes obviously and at other times with more of a challenging ambiguity.
Mapplethorpe’s Self- Portrait (1980) in drag is paired with a portrait of the singer and actress, Amanda Lear, finding its common denominator in female sexuality, whilst Bruce Mailman (1981) and Christopher Holly (1980) share a common ground of the playful and nefarious. Opposites also attract as a profile of a marble sculpture of Ermes is twinned with a vintas-like composition of a human skull, the two representing extreme ends of the spectrum of perfection and lowly mortal reality.
Capturing Mapplethorpe’s work in brand new light, rife with possibilities of interpretation, Saints and Sinners offers a devilish and daring chance to explore again some of the work that showcases the real talent of this seminal photographic artist.
Robert Mapplethorpe: Saints and Sinners, until 25 January 2014, Sean Kelly Gallery, 475 Tenth Ave, New York, NY 10018, United States.
1. Robert Mapplethorpe, Christopher Holly, 1980 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission. Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York.