robert mapplethorpe’s fascination with male nudes explored in a third l.a. show

To coincide with the landmark companion exhibitions at LACMA and Getty, Vince Aletti has curated an intimate selection of 40 prints from the photography provocateur's untapped archive.

by Hannah Ongley
01 June 2016, 3:25pm

bill joulis, 1977 © robert mapplethorpe foundation. used by permission.

In May, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum opened an enormous Robert Mapplethorpe retrospective of the provocative photographer's work from the 60s through the 80s. To coincide with the Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium, which runs until July 31, the Moran Bondaroff gallery has tapped photography savant Vince Aletti to curate an intimate show of 40 silver gelatin prints from the late artist's archive. Dark and Light further reveals Mapplethorpe's fascination with the human form, and in particular with the black male body. These subtly homoerotic portraits are interspersed with photos of suggestive flower arrangements and female torsos. 

Thomas, 1986 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

"One of the great photographers of the male body, Mapplethorpe understood and appreciated it from all angles, in images whose approach ranged from classical restraint to sensual abandon," says Aletti. "Because some of his most arresting pictures of men are portraits, the show is also full of beautiful, imposing heads, both sculptural and fiercely alive. So, given my taste and his, the selection is predominately male, but not exclusively, and it's the other pictures that help define Mapplethorpe's hungry and brilliantly idiosyncratic eye: a vase of flowering branches in the dappled sun, Fran Lebowitz with a half-finished cigarette, a fish on a bed of newsprint, a magnificently pregnant belly."

With his two-museum retrospective and HBO documentary, this has been quite the year for one of the 20th century's most controversial artists. While his work might be less shocking than it appeared to 80s America, it's certainly no less relevant. 

Tulips, 1986 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

Clifton, 1981 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

Pan Head, 1977 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

"Dark and Light" runs until June 25, 2016 at Moran Bondaroff gallery in Los Angeles. 


Text Hannah Ongley
All Mapplethorpe Works © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

Los Angeles
Robert Mapplethorpe
Vince Aletti
Moran Bondaroff
dark and light