Robert Mapplethorpe once said, “I wait for that
magical moment, then I take the picture.” Nearly
20 years after his death, Mapplethorpe’s artistic
legacy is still celebrated for the way he
effortlessly combined the timelessness of
classical form with cutting edge subjects. This
contradictory tension, or Aufhebung – a term
coined by German philosopher Hegel – meaning to
preserve and negate at the same time as
transcending, defines much of Mapplethorpe’s work.
He embraced ideals from the past, while looking
towards the future. He was an artist willing to
take a risk, walking a tightrope of dangerous
beauty between the demands of a perfectionist and
the abandon of a free spirit.
Mapplethorpe’s self-portraits of his hands
memorialize the artist, yet simultaneously remain
an iconic image that speaks to the present. His
work of the 1970s and 1980s gives classical
concerns, such as visual balance and symmetry, a
subversive charge. His celebrity portraits
document a past era that at the same time draws
upon enduring aesthetic principles. The visionary
power of his pictures of Lisa Lyon, the first
World Women’s Bodybuilding champion, anticipated
the idealized physique of the modern woman in the
1990s, while referring to archetypal femininity.
Mapplethporpe’s images are a memory of what the
future used to look like.
Curated by Olga Korper