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Teller on Mapplethorpe

  • Art
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

There’s a lot of chat about photographer Robert Mapplethorpe at the moment. As well as a massive retrospective touring galleries around the world, a revealing documentary about his life, ‘Look at the Pictures’, came out earlier this year and now, to mark what would have been his 70th birthday, fellow photographer Juergen Teller has curated a show of his work. Teller has delved deep into Mapplethorpe’s archive and chosen rarely exhibited images spanning across his lifetime.

Best known for his beautifully lit black and white nude rude dudes (and for dating Patti Smith), Mapplethorpe’s vast range of images are confrontational and stylish, and the 48 on show are true to form. You won’t find the big hitters here – instead Teller’s selected a disparate mix of animals, portraits, still lifes, architecture and, of course, naked guys. I counted nine cocks and four splayed bumholes. But whether he’s photographing a pert tush or a loaf of bread, Mapplethorpe treats them with the same detached levelling view which makes the overtly sexual seem almost mundane and everyday objects come to life with erotic possibility.

The way the show is (well) hung amusingly plays with this contrast: a cute kitten on a couch sits innocently opposite an explicit close-up of double anal fisting, while Muffin the dog is neighbour to a mouth covered in clothes pegs and a picture of a pear shares a wall with a wildly muscular pair of arse cheeks. Similarly whimsical is a comically large floor-to-ceiling nude portrait of a man posing on a beach, his impressively large swinging schlong on show, which can be seen from the street (people are furtively taking pics outside).

Filthy LOLs aside, Teller has chosen some beautiful shots which show Mapplethorpe’s immense skill as a photographer. But it’s really only the three small portraits on the back wall of the second room which give any insights into the man himself. The tiny self-portrait and intimate nudes of lovers Patti Smith and Sam Wagstaff feel like the most revealing things in the show. These rare private moments are a welcome contrast to the other highly controlled glossy studio shots and feel like the true gems that Teller has unearthed.

Written by
Sonya Barber


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