Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation (PD524). In fine condition. Accompanied with Whitney Museum exhibition label verso on frame.
Exhibited: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, Polaroids: Mapplethorpe 5/3-9/7/08; The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Evanston, IL, 1/13-4/5/09; Modern Art Oxford, Oxford, England, 7/4-9/13/09; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA, 9/26/09-1/10/10.
Literature: Sylvia Wolf, Polaroids: Mapplethorpe, New York, 2007, pl. 124.
Provenance: Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation (PD524); to, Private New York collection.
This image of artist and performer Peter Berlin comes from the body of 1,500 Polaroid photographs produced by Robert Mapplethorpe between 1970 and 1975. Signifying the early phase of Mapplethorpe’s career as a photographer, these Polaroids are where the artist began to explore the themes he became known for in his later studio work, such as homoerotic neoclassicism, BDSM, religion, and gay counterculture. In contrast to his staged photographs, the Polaroids are marked by spontaneity and an unexpected immediacy. In the mid-1970s, as portraiture became a central focus of Mapplethorpe’s career, this immediacy often took the form of the photographer looking to capture the sexual energy between himself and his subject, and in order to do so, applying the conventions of porn to inject works with the energy of arousal and forbidden sex. In this photograph, Berlin, whose suggestive fashion became an iconic signifier of gay culture, strikes a pose in an industrial elevator, performing for both the camera and Mapplethorpe himself.