Sunday, September 24, 2006

Robert Maplethorpe - Photography and the Gay Sensibility

I was looking through a book of Robert Maplethorpe's photographs today and reminded of just how beautiful the compositions were, on an immediate sensory level. Whatever the content, there is the same elegance and balance in design, the dramatic use of light and shadow, and the clarity and precision of composition. These pervasive qualities give the family resemblance of a really individual vision. And what really gets me in, that gay sensibility that turns on my gaydar, full.

BUT, I've also have this nagging suspicion of these formal qualities being a bit self-consciously managed. Are the photos too glossy and slick? Is the symmetry too obvious? There is a sense of great advertising design. High-lighted by them harking back to a by-gone era: 'Vanity Fair' or 'Life Magagine' of the 50's and 60's. Of course, this is also the point.

There are the still lives:

And the 'society portraits':

Love Louise Bourgeois (French-born American Abstract Expressionist Sculptor) looking a tad bemused by that BIG BIG COCK and BALLS breakfast (a baguette).

And of course there are the hot blokes:

And those where you do a double-take:

And finally the ones that 'scare the horses' - that got everyone (well, maybe not everyone) so uptight at that New York show:

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