Critically praised for his finely modeled and classically composed photographs, Robert Mapplethorpe remains intensely controversial and ermously popular. This book brings together almost three hundred images from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation's archive and private collections, to provide a critical view of Mapplethorpe's formative years as an artist. These works reveal the themes that would inspire Mapplethorpe throughout his career. Included is a selection of his color Polaroids and objects incorporating his early instant photography. Some images convey a disarming tenderness and vulnerability, others a toughness and immediacy that would give way in later years to more classical form. The author traces the development of Mapplethorpe's use of instant photography during a period of five years, from 1970 to 1975, when the artist worked mainly in this medium. The images include self-portraits, figure studies, still lifes, portraits of lovers and friends such as Patti Smith, Sam Wagstaff and Marianne Faithful and observations of everyday objects. Marked by a spontaneity and creative curiosity, these fragile images offer an illuminating contrast to the glossy perfection of the work for which Mapplethorpe is best kwn, allowing us a more personal glimpse of his artistry.
Sylvia Wolf is director of the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington. She is the author of numerous critical works on photography, including The Digital Eye: Photographic Art in the Digital Age (Prestel).