December 13, 2006

Robert Mapplethorpe's Children's Portraits

mapplethorpe_melia_marden.jpgI swear, I didn't plan for it to be art day, but there you go. The late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is now best known for his minimalistic homoerotic and sadomasochistic nudes [OK, and maybe his sensual photos of orchids, but mostly the nudes].

I knew of one image, but I didn't know what the Guggenheim says, that "Mapplethorpe frequently made portraits of children, [t]he offspring of friends and society figures whom he also photographed."

The 1983 work here is of a portrait of Melia Marden, the younger daughter of abstract painter Brice Marden. The Guggenheim has several others, shot in the studio, or in the kid's homes, and in various forms of nakedness. They're really thoughtful and beautiful--the Guggenheim compares Mapplethorpe's kid portraits to the putti flying around the backgrounds of Renaissance paintings--and it kind of bugs me that I'm wary of putting them on the site directly, but there you are.

Robert Miller Gallery exhibited Mapplethorpe's children's portraits in 1996; originally private commissions, most had never been seen before, but in a NY Times review, the artist said kids were the most difficult subject to photograph: ""You can't control them. They never do what you want them to do." Which, coming from a guy into S&M and bullwhips, means an awful lot.

Robert Mapplethorpe in the Guggenheim Museum collection [guggenheimcollection.org]
PHOTOGRAPHY VIEW;The Child, the Adult Within and the Blur Between [nytimes.com]

3 Comments

I can see why you might be concerned about posting the pics on the blog, as someone in the bible belt would definitely see them as something less than artistic.

That said, Mapplethorpe was a fantastic artist, and I really enjoyed the link.

I understand the reticence in this day and age. My wife, a newspaper features editor, had one of her reporters do a story about an infant bereavement photography service called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. Some people thought we were disingenuous and had ulterior motives for running a picture a family provided us for the story.

Pictures can tell many stories and not always the ones you want them to tell.

My mother always told me how strange Mapplethorpe was lol. She had to study him in college and always told me that his photos were bizarre. But seeing this little girl I can't help but think she's anything but.
All of his work I have seen thus far is very interesting. The one mom always made a point about, the bullwhip image, didn't disturb me nearly so much as I thought it might. In fact, none of his images have.
I come from down south and I agree that people around here wouldn't understand it.

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