Exploring Robert Mapplethorpe’s Portraits of Cultural Icons

While knee-jerk Senator Jesse Helms did his unlevel best to ensure that America at-large most remembered the more pornographic work of Robert Mapplethorpe, we of sounder mind know that the lensman contained many multitudes. In addition to shooting kittens and children and mountains and coconuts and all sorts of floral exotica, Mapplethorpe shot portraits, largely of the most influential people of his time. What’s cool about the collection culled in Mapplethorpe X7, a magnificent recent release from teNeues, is that it’s curated by seven of the keenest eyes of all time. There’s David Hockney, who errs on the side of visualists (Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, Warhol, et al), and Cindy Sherman, who digs things up close and very personal, whether wardrobed or disrobed. Robert Wilson seems to want to stir up some controversy all over again, or perhaps the playwright simply wishes that everyone see the real cause for hot fuss was Mapplethorpe’s grasp of exquisite beauty. And only a fool would want to legislate against that.

Iggy Pop, 1981 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.