Robert Mapplethorpe: Sexual Revolutionary - On Tour

Born in 1946, Robert Mapplethorpe produced some of the most iconic images of the last 50 years. His work includes intimate pictures of friends and acquaintances, acclaimed studies of the male and female nudes, delicate flora still lifes, and celebrity portraits. Known faces include Patti Smith, Grace Jones, Andy Warhol and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Towner will present the work of American artist Robert Mapplethorpe who pushed the boundaries of photography in both his subject choice and technique.

The exhibition will run alongside New Documents, Brighton Photo Biennial 2010, in which all the work will be new and on the cutting edge of photography. Mapplethorpe’s work will provide a historical context whilst fuelling the contemporary debates around photography.

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Robert Mapplethorpe, Dominick and Elliot, 1979 © The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Courtesy Art + Commerce.

Mapplethorpe portrays sexual practices whose existence society refuses to acknowledge or allow. But he represents them with great artistic discipline and control.

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Left: Robert Mapplethorpe, Self Portrait, 1980. Right: Robert Mapplethorpe, Self Portrait, 1980 © The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation Courtesy Art + Commerce.

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Robert Mapplethorpe, Jim,  Sausalito, 1977 © The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Courtesy Art + Commerce.

Consider the question of whether Mapplethorpe's most extreme pictures are erotic and artistic or pornographic and obscene.
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Robert Mapplethorpe, Brian Ridley and Lyle Heeter, 1979 © The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Courtesy Art + Commerce.

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Robert Mapplethorpe, Ken, Lydia, and Tyler, 1985 © The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Mapplethorpe wasn't conventionalizing sadomasochism by putting it on public display; he was making a point about the built-in permeability of our conventions.

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Robert Mapplethorpe, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1976 © The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation Courtesy Art + Commerce.


Robert Mapplethorpe is showing at Towner, Eastbourne from 25 September to 21 November. Details: nationalgalleries.org/artistrooms

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