Monday, April 11, 2016

look at the pictures

I watched the HBO documentary last night, “Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures.” It's very good and very interesting. The big takeaway for me was the necessity of drive and perseverance, most specifically as it relates to having success as an artist. Of course, as always with his work, the issue of exploitation versus love of subject matter is brought to the surface, and it reminded me how essential it is for an artist to express his or her own passion and life through their work. 

It was certainly brave of HBO to show the images that caused so much controversy back in the day (basically penises, and oh yeah, fisting and pissing, etc...). But they now somehow seem surprisingly tame; maybe because those images have been seen so much as to have become almost iconic representations of what controversial 1980s photography was, or maybe it's just harder for me, personally, to be shocked by sexual imagery, I don't know. 

Two people who played prominent roles in my youth were featured in the doc and in the photos. It forced me to think if the trajectory of certain events had shifted just slightly, might he have photographed me? It seems self-centered to even think that, but it's not out of the realm of what would have been possible at the time. The whole thing brought back youthful, nostalgic, exciting, clandestine memories of a vibrant and gritty New York. A New York that's been washed away by tourists and foreign investors; a New York that I mourn daily as I walk through scrubbed canyons of shiny new luxury living towers. Light, shape, form, sexuality, work, friendship, family, the artist's process, the passing of time, the cultural significance of imagery, mortality; this doc had it all.
Well worth a watch.

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