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Robert Mapplethorpe

Mapplethorpe, Robert (māˈpəlthôrpˌ) [key], 1946–89, American photographer, b. New York City. He is known for his elegantly expressive black-and-white studies of male and female nudes, flowers, and celebrity portraits. He credited sculpture as an influence on his work and used traditional techniques of direct lighting and sharp focus to produce sleekly ravishing effects and gleaming surfaces. His photographs include homoerotic and sadomasochistic images, often glamorized and disturbing, which made him a controversial figure. Soon after his death from AIDS, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., canceled a traveling retrospective of his work in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid a debate in Congress over public funding by the National Endowment for the Arts of works deemed "objectionable" by fundamentalist religious groups and political conservatives. In 1990 a Cincinnati jury found that city's Contemporary Arts Center and its director not guilty of obscenity for exhibiting Mapplethorpe's photographs. His works are included in such volumes as Lady: Lisa Lyon (1983) and Robert Mapplethorpe: Certain People (1985).

See biography by P. Morrisoe (1995); studies by R. Marshall (1988) and A. C. Danto (1995); The Perfect Moment (CD-ROM, 1995).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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