Robert Mapplethorpe: Night work. Curated by The Scissor Sisters.

by Katie on December 21, 2010

Chance would be a fine thing that I have to miss the launch of this fantastic exhibition at one of my favourite galleries.  Not only is it Robert Mapplethorpe but this exhibition has been curated by New York pop phenomenons, The Scissor Sisters.

Robert Mapplethorpe was an icon of the American avant-garde in the late twentieth century, embodying in his life and art a powerful sense of freedom in all its manifestations – creative, political, personal, sexual. Since his untimely death from an AIDS-related illness in 1989, Mapplethorpe’s presence has continued to be felt across all art forms, his unrepentantly honest and meticulously composed explorations of desire, transgression and identity offering inspiration and challenges to a wide range of visual artists, filmmakers, writers and musicians.

Scissor Sisters, one of the pre-eminent bands to emerge from New York’s art scene in the past decade, last year celebrated Mapplethorpe’s distinctively dark and decadent sensibility by deploying a series of Mapplethorpe’s photographs as the artwork for their most recent album release, as well as the singles from the album and the design concept for the accompanying world tour.
This exhibition at Alison Jacques Gallery brings together the seven Mapplethorpe images chosen by Scissor Sisters, along with other photographs, Polaroids and unique and rarely seen sculptures by the artist, and with the band’s selection of important works by major contemporary artists who have admired or been influenced by Mapplethorpe’s aesthetic and attitude. Uncompromising but life-affirming, Mapplethorpe’s fascination with eroticism and mortality, beauty and liberty produced very contemporary interpretations of universal themes, themes which found articulation through the artist’s exacting gaze upon the harmonic, indeed sculptural, possibilities of the objects and scenarios he encountered.  His practice was distinguished by the expression of an outlook that ranged from irreverent to subversive to starkly brutal, through a rigorously disciplined language of formal and tonal composition. This unswerving commitment to the pursuit of ideal form, however unconventionally realised, exemplified a potent trend in contemporary art, where the relationships and tensions between sensuous excess and controlled restraint are made visually manifest.

I’ll be back from Berlin and straight to this for an up close and personal viewing in its opening days.

Robert Mapplethorpe:  Night Work is at Alison Jacques Gallery, 16-18 Berners Street, London W1T 3LN  Tel +44 (0)20 7631 4720 from 19 JANUARY – 19 FEBRUARY 2011

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