Flesh + Stone

Robert Mapplethorpe


In ancient Greek mythology, Pygmalion sculpted a woman from ivory so beautiful that he fell in love with her. He beseeched Aphrodite to bring him a woman just like her, so Aphrodite brought his statue to life.

Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs of the human form often bridge the gap between flesh and stone; sculpted bodies seem frozen between breaths. This exhibition explores the dichotomy between vulnerability and strength, the malleable and the immobile. Gazing at the unmoving images of men and satyrs, of women and sphinxes, the differentiation between skin and marble is no longer evident; they are on the verge of being brought to life, about to take their first breath. The viewer waits for the marble skin to betray a pulse, for the carved back to rise with intake of air—daring them to breathe, to live, to be real. In the presence of these images, the viewer becomes frozen, transfixed, as though transformed into stone.

Flesh + Stone features some 20 black-and-white photographs selected from the Mapplethorpe Foundation. The works showcase the body, the portrait, and the pose as they recur throughout his oeuvre.