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- Introduction
- Abstracting Reality
- Light Into Form
- The Indexical Trace of Time
- The Photographic "I"
- Alchemy In The Darkroom



Artist Biography

Self Portrait

Self Portrait, 1999
Gelatin silver print
20 x 16" (58.8 x 40.6cm)
edition of 10, 2 AP

Born and raised in New York, Edward Mapplethorpe began his solo career in 1990 under the pseudonym Edward Maxey and was quickly acclaimed for his luminous nudes, portraits, and still lives that were evocative of his older brother, Robert Mapplethorpe (1946–1989). However, it was his innovative work beyond the controlled environment of the studio (Undercurrents, 1992-94) that first distinguished him as a unique talent in bridging the gap between photography and abstract painting.

Mapplethorpe continued to incorporate a painterly aesthetic in a number of subsequent thematic projects including: Stars and Stripes (1994), Transmographs (2000), Compositions (2002) and HAIR Transfer (2004). In 2004, Mr. Mapplethorpe collaborated with New York City based orchestra EOS and produced a limited edition portfolio of images capturing musicians in a whirlwind of movement as they performed selected pieces from their repertoire. This adaptation of the cageian concept of integrating chance and time into the creative process became another integral aspect of Mapplethorpe's own artistic practice.

All the while, Mapplethorpe had been photographing one-year-old babies. This subject is a versatile means for him to explore the human spirit through fresh and unguarded expressions. Promoted in House and Garden Magazine as one of the top commissioned photographers of baby portraits, the magazine compares him to his older sibling with whom Edward worked closely for many years. The artist has affirmed that assisting his brother has greatly contributed to the development of the distinct and pure quality of these photographs.

In 2002 Mapplethorpe stepped away from photography for the first time to create dynamic, abstract drawings on paper. They are a continuation of the artist's exploration of compositional space and abstractions of portraiture using charcoal, ink, watercolor and pencil.

Shiseido la Beauté organized the solo exhibition HAIR Transfer in 2004, marking Mapplethorpe's first use of hair as a medium. In 2007, a solo exhibition of TimeLines at Foley Gallery, New York proved to be a watershed moment for the artist. Mapplethorpe returned to his formal exploration of line by combining the gestural impulses of action painting with non-camera photographic techniques. His use of human and animal hair to "draw" his compositions allowed for a complex play between control and randomness that continues to structure and temper his work to the present. This show traveled in 2008 to Germany and was exhibited at artMbassy, Berlin. Concurrently, Mapplethorpe exhibited a new body of work, TimeZones at Ketterer Kunst, Berlin. These two exhibitions, collectively titled TimeLines / TimeZones, traveled to Galleria Casagrande in Rome, Italy in April 2009.

In May 2011 Mapplethorpe exhibited The Variations at Foley Gallery, New York. This series continued to push the artist's practice of harnessing darkroom techniques to create photo-based drawings that are at once organic yet highly technical in their creation. This exhibition traveled to Dubner Moderne in Lausanne, Switzerland in October 2011. The artist lives and works in New York.



New York At Night

New York at Night, 1990
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
edition of 10, 2 AP; also edition of 3: 30 x 30" (76.2 x 76.2cm)

Introduction

The following selection serves as an introduction to Edward Mapplethorpe's diverse oeuvre spanning the past 30 years. It is arranged thematically and aims to place the work within a conceptual framework that focuses on the elements of light, movement, technical process and geometric abstraction. The illustrated pairings and clusters demonstrate how these core ideas have transcended each series to unite seemingly disparate projects. It is a testament to the artist's unique vision that these overarching core concepts can be so broadly defined through his many bodies of work.
 
The series represented include: early landscapes, nudes, portraiture and still life works (c. 1982-1992); Undercurrents (1992- 1994); Stars and Stripes (1994); Transmographs (1995-1996); Babies (1995-present); Portfolio II (1997); Compositions (1999- 2002); Peaches (2000- 2002); photograms (2002-present); drawings (2002-2004); EOS (2003); HAIR Transfer (2004); TimeLines (2007-2009); TimeZones (2008); and The Variations (2010-2011).

Edward Mapplethorpe began his artistic career striving for the perfect balance of formal and aesthetic qualities within his traditional compositions of nudes, still life, landscapes and portraiture. These early images are linked by an ordered compositional structure, deft use of light and are often psychologically charged. Northern Flicker (1991) illustrates Mapplethorpe's early inclination towards geometric motifs to balance his compositions through his positioning of the bird in a cross position within a circular architectural design. The cross and circle motifs make their debut together here, and continue to recur as compositional devices up to the present. The bird's variegated plumage foreshadows the artist's later preoccupation with tonal variation. One assumes it is deceased, bringing to mind the notion that photography "kills" its subjects allowing this image to broach the issue of time—both physical and mortal. Similarly, in David LaChapelle (1984), the subject is positioned so that his limbs create a symmetrical grid structure within the picture plane. The door frame physically and psychologically holds the subject within the composition. Subtle tonal shifts within the photograph add dimension and atmosphere.

From these examples it is apparent that the early works consequently hold the key to understanding the artist's conceptual and aesthetic preoccupations, as many of the qualities found within this seminal period can be found as elements throughout Mapplethorpe's later series.

Stilleto With Gun
Robert's Camera
Stiletto with Gun, 1990
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP
Robert's camera, 1989
Gelatin silver print
20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm)
Edition of 3, 1 AP



David Thorpe
David LaChappelle
David Thorpe, 1990
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP
David LaChapelle, 1984
Gelatin silver print
20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP


Melody Northern Flicker
Left: Melody, 1989. Gelatin silver print; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10, 3 AP
Middle: Northern Flicker, 1991. Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP
Right: Untitled, No. 973, 2008. Gelatin silver lith print; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); unique

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Wheel

Wheel, 1983
Gelatin silver print
20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP

Abstracting Reality

Throughout his career, Edward Mapplethorpe has endeavored to traverse the boundaries of traditional black and white darkroom techniques to distill the photographic medium into subtle tonal nuances and pure geometric abstraction. This idea of rejecting figuration for an abstract, formal language has been a key aspect throughout the history of Modern Art. Examples ranging from Picasso's Cubist vocabulary to Mondrian's establishment of a compositional grid system and Stieglitz's seminal Equivalents series exemplify the collective impulse to implement realism as a springboard towards creative expression.
 
Mapplethorpe follows in this esteemed tradition beginning early on in his career. In Wheel (1983), the lack of any visual elements aside from the graphic, symmetrical lines projecting from the circular center emphasizes the artist's reliance on geometric patterning to structure his compositions. As we continue along the forward trajectory of his oeuvre it becomes apparent that a tangible subject becomes progressively less central and less recognizable, until what is left is a minimalist vocabulary of lines and planes, as seen in the juxtaposition of Empire State Building (1993) and Untitled No. 951 (2008). Throughout, Mapplethorpe plays with our sense of perception. He succinctly illustrates Foucault's observation of how "spaces of constructed visibility" reveal how these "spaces" consequently "constitute the subject" and subsequently construct a framework of understanding that what remains visible ultimately reveals a reflection of ourselves.



Melody 1988
Chateau Marmont Interior
Melody, 1988
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP
Chateau Marmont Interior, 1990
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP


Landscape With Nude
Arches
Landscape with Nude, 1990
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP
Arches, 1993
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP


Seascape
Untitled No. 968
Seascape, 1992
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP;
also edition of 7 with 1 AP: 40 x 30" (101.6 x 76.2cm)
Untitled, No. 968, 2008
Gelatin silver lith print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
unique


South Water Cay
Untitled No. 968
South Water Cay, 1993
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP
Untitled, 2003
Gelatin silver print
10 x 8" (25.4 x 20.32cm)
Unique


Untitled No. 879 Untitled 880 Untitled No. 881
Left: Untitled, No. 879, 2007. Photo lithograph; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10
Middle: Untitled, No. 880, 2007. Photo lithograph; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10
Right: Untitled No. 881, 2007. Photo lithograph; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10

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Torso Maryanne

Torso / Maryanne, 1990
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
edition of 10, 2 AP; also edition of 3: 30 x 30" (76.2 x 76.2cm)
Light Into Form

Mapplethorpe's masterful handling of light has remained constant over the past three decades, resulting in often hauntingly luminous images. This formal device, coupled with his use of geometry and movement as compositional motifs has enabled the artist to capture and memorialize otherwise fleeting images.

The artist's keen sense of proportion and pictorial arrangement within the picture plane and his use of light and shadow is exemplified early on in Torso/Maryanne (1990). In this image, as in others, the human form becomes a surface for the artist to deconstruct and re-define. The rectilinear grid of the window maps the contours of the body by dictating the torso with its shadows. These shadows concurrently activate the negative space, thus becoming as central to the image as the physical form; functioning as both material and subject.

The artist's penchant for using natural light in his Undercurrents series introduces the element of chance to the mix. The moody atmosphere in Rock Garden Interlude (1993) was achieved exclusively through tonal variations of daylight filtered through water and the silhouetted coral feels like a trace of the object rather than documentation of the real thing. In later works including those from the Compositions, HAIR Transfer and TimeLines series Mapplethorpe harnesses light to create complex constructions of seemingly pulsing straight edges, planes and curves elevating it to function as both medium and subject. The graphic network of lines that compose Variation No. 28 from 2011 were drawn exclusively by the use of exposure of chemicals to light.

Foot
Melody 1988
Foot, 1988
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 10; 2 AP: 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm)
Melody, 1988
Gelatin silver print
20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP


Christ On Scale
Untitled No. 941
Christ on Scale, 1991
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP
Untitled, No. 941, 2008
Gelatin silver lith print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
unique


Rock Garden Interlude
Untitled, 2000
Rock Garden Interlude, 1993
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP
Untitled, 2000
Ink on paper
11 x 9" (27.94 x 22.86cm)
unique


Untitled, 1999
Composition #2, 2000
Untitled, 1999
Ink on paper
11 x 8.5" (27.94 x 21.59cm)
Composition #2, 2000
Gelatin silver print 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 5, 3 AP; also edition of 2: 50 x 40" (127 x 101.6cm)


Untitled 1999
Variation No. 28, 2011
Gelatin silver prints
Triptych: 64 x 128" (162.6 x 325.1cm) overall, each panel 64 x 42" (162.6 x 106.7cm)
unique

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Maryanne 1989

Maryanne, 1989
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP
The Indexical Trace of Time

One of the limitations of photography, or any two-dimensional medium, is the possibility of only capturing one specific moment in time. Mapplethorpe has attempted to circumvent this by engaging movement as a medium. In the spirit of Eadweard Muybridge, Étienne-Jules Marey and other 19th century photographers Mapplethorpe also documents physical movement, though to very different effect. Stars (1994) was created by a time elapsed exposure of an American flag propelled by the wind from an electric fan. The repetition of the symbol on a formless ground along with the shifts in perspective provides the illusion of the stars falling through space. Meanwhile, their physical identity as an object becomes reduced to an element of formalistic patterning.

It is through this use of movement that Mapplethorpe briefly returned to the figure with his Transmograph series. These images were recorded through large blocks of manipulated ice that subsequently created a shifting screen between the artist and model and whose transient, melting surfaces reflected and distorted the subject over time. Often, as seen in David (1995) the fragmented visage of the sitter is refracted and reduced to a modulated tonal scale that abstracts the figure almost completely. Often times, and especially in the later works, the resulting image is merely a trace of the original ephemeral inspiration. For example, in Variation No. 22, from The Variations series, the artist implements a unique process whereby colorless chemicals are applied onto traditional black and white photographic paper over time—utilizing chance as an important aspect to the creative process. Mapplethorpe innovatively strives to situate his works within time and space, a trait that categorically falls outside the realm of traditional photography.

Lisa 1990 Lisa 1990 2
Lisa, 1990
Gelatin silver print
Diptych, 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm) each
Edition of 3, 1 AP


Hands American Flag Stars
Left: Hands, 1987. Gelatin silver print; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP
Middle: American Flag, 1994. Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 5, 1 AP
Right: Stars, 1994. Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 5, 2 AP; also edition of 5: 28 x 28" (71.12 x 71.12cm)


Water Surface Study
Water Surface Study 02
Water Surface Study, 1992
Platinum print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 7, 1 AP; also gelatin silver print edition of 10, 2 AP
Water Surface Study, 1992
Platinum print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 7, 1 AP; also gelatin silver print edition of 10, 2 AP


Easter Lilies
David
Easter Lilies, 1995
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP
David, 1995
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP


Violin D
Cello
Violin D from the EOS portfolio, 2003
Iris print
10 x 8" (25.4 x 20.32cm)
edition of 10, 2 AP
Cello from the EOS portfolio, 2003
Iris print
10 x 8" (25.4 x 20.32cm)
edition of 10, 2 AP


Variation No. 22
Variation No. 22, 2011
gelatin silver print
42 x 64" (106.7 x 162.6cm)
unique


Untitled 862 Untitled860 Untitled 861
Left: Untitled, No. 862, 2007. Chromogenic print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); unique
Middle: Untitled, No. 860, 2007. Chromogenic print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); unique
Right: Untitled, No. 861, 2007; Chromogenic print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); unique

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Peaches

Peaches, 1999-2002 (artist rendering)
Archival pigment prints
Installation dimensions variable; 100 individually framed prints, 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm) each
Edition of 5, 1 AP

The Photographic "I"

Roland Barthes has said "What the Photograph reproduces to infinity has occurred only once: the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially…By nature, the Photograph has something tautological about it: a pipe, here, is always and intractably a pipe".

The idea that a photograph is an endlessly reproducible, objective record of the camera's "eye" which in turn serves as a surrogate eye for the viewer sets up a certain attitude towards the photographic medium. This supposition brings with it certain expectations about the viewer's perspective vis-a-vis the photograph in question. What is implicit in this statement is that the position of the eye / "I" of the viewer must comply with that of the artificial eye of the camera. This raises the issue of the intentional perspective of "the gaze". According to Walter Benjamin, the camera has the ability to capture that which the human eye cannot perceive. Mapplethorpe utilizes these theoretical suppositions and turns them on end to challenge his audience towards a greater level of consciousness.

The following examples are elements of larger installations that have been conceived as individual works. Though seemingly disparate in subject matter, each of these installations tweaks the viewer's pre-conceived definition and understanding while attempting to subsequently open the mind to alternate possibilities. Mapplethorpe's portraits of babies taken on the occasion of their first birthday (and solely identified by the time of their birth) contradicts the idea of a baby as a formless, blank slate waiting to be molded. By targeting a particular moment in time he attempts to illustrate the scope of possibility and in fact when seen together, these children exude an astonishingly developed level of personality and range of physical attributes.

Peaches address the definition of photography as an endlessly replicating process. Again, the artist has selected one element to address the issue of reproduction and originality as they relate to perception. This installation includes photographs of 100 different peaches, installed along a single line around the perimeter of a room or grouped in a grid formation of 10 x 10 rows. At first glance one may assume the 100 images repeat a single photograph, yet it is only upon closer inspection that it becomes apparent that each subject is subtly unique.

Portfolio II can be addressed in relation to the idea of the gaze. Here, Mapplethorpe has appropriated mass-printed pornographic photographs and re-configured them into a portfolio of fragmented images, riffing off the relationship between pornography and photography.


Left: Tuesday, February 15, 2005; 5:32pm. Gelatin silver print, 24x20" (61 x 50.8cm), Edition of 3, 1 AP
Middle: Wednesday, November 6, 2002; 4:45pm. Gelatin silver print, 24x20" (61 x 50.8cm), Edition of 3, 1 AP
Right: Tuesday, November 28, 2006; 3:27am. Gelatin silver print, 24x20" (61 x 50.8cm), Edition of 3, 1 AP


Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Mally, 1996
Gelatin silver print
24x20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 10, 2 AP


Portfolio II Portfolio II Portfolio II
Left: Portfolio II, 1997. Gelatin silver print; 10 x 8" (25.4 x 20.32cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP, also edition of 5: 7 x 5" (17.78 x 12.7cm)
Middle: Portfolio II, 1997. Gelatin silver print; 10 x 8" (25.4 x 20.32cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP, also edition of 5: 7 x 5" (17.78 x 12.7cm)
Right: Portfolio II, 1997. Gelatin silver print; 10 x 8" (25.4 x 20.32cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP, also edition of 5: 7 x 5" (17.78 x 12.7cm)


Peaches (detail), 1999-2002
Archival pigment prints
20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm) each
Edition of 5, 1 AP

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The Alchemy of the Darkroom

Process and its relation to chemical and technical photographic techniques has become a central focus for the artist. By 2000, Mapplethorpe turned completely away from the camera and concentrated his artistic practice exclusively within the confines of the darkroom. Consequently, the work after this time becomes increasingly graphic and exclusively reliant on technical darkroom processes with each element deliberately conceived and realized by the artist. This dynamic between the controlled hand of the artist and the sometimes unpredictable nature of darkroom processes sets up a delicate balance between chaos and order that subsequently brings a new challenge to the artist's creative methodology. The Compositions series re-incorporates controlled movement by the artist's implementation of ink and compressed air to create linear, automatic drawings. Similarly, the HAIR Transfer series evokes a visceral sensibility reminiscent of x-rays through the use of hair as a mark-making device. At other times, Mapplethorpe inventively uses everyday items such as hairnets or liquid soap to create photograms that function as geometric descendents of Man Ray's Rayograms.

Beginning in 2008 the artist began to remove all extraneous elements from his process leaving only light and darkroom chemicals to function as both subject and medium. The TimeZones series reduces the photographic medium to its essence with an installation representing a tonal gray scale from white to black using the principals of the Zone System. Likewise, The Variations series daringly pushes the boundaries of what defines a photographic work of art− resulting in unique black and white gelatin silver print images that display a rich myriad of color tonalities. These collective bodies of work incorporate an inventive use of materials that subsequently become re-defined in a way that transcends their physical identity. The darkroom compositions buck the idea that a photograph is merely a record of something else, and instead proclaim their individuality as unique objects in of themselves. Mapplethorpe's darkroom interventions serve as gauntlets for the artist to push his personal vision while also reminding us that traditional black and white photography is still a vital and vibrant medium in the midst of the digital age.



Composition #13, 2001
Gelatin silver print
Triptych, each panel 20 x 24" (50.8 x 61cm); Edition of 3; also edition of 1: 30 x 40" (76.2 x 101.6cm); edition of 1: 40 x 50" (101.6 x 127cm)


Composition #6
Hair Transfer
Composition #6, 2000
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
Edition of 5; also edition of 3: 39 x 32" (99 x 81.28cm);
edition of 2: 55 x 45"(139.7 x 114.3cm)
HAIR transfer, 2004
Chromogenic print
40 x 30" (101.6 x 76.2cm)
Edition of 5; also edition of 3: 39 x 32" (99 x 81.28cm);
edition of 2: 55 x 45"(139.7 x 114.3cm)


Untitled 2008
Untitled 2008
Untitled, 2008
Gelatin silver print
20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm)
unique
Untitled, 2008
Gelatin silver print
20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm)
unique


Untitled No. 869 Variation No. 7 Untitled No. 832
Left: Untitled No. 869, 2007. Gelatin silver lith print; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6 cm); unique
Middle: Variation No. 7, 2011;Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); unique
Right: Untitled No. 832, 2007; Gelatin silver lith print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8 cm); unique


Untitled No. 846
Untitled No. 892
Untitled, No. 846, 2007
Gelatin silver lith print
24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm)
unique
Untitled, No. 892, 2007
Gelatin silver lith print
20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm)
unique


Timezones
TimeZones, 2008
Gelatin silver prints
9 panels, 60 x 50" (152.4 x 127cm) each


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