Opening in March 2016 at LACMA and the Getty are two exhibitions that, together, comprehensively present the work of artist Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946–1989). The simultaneous exhibitions offer important highlights of the work of one of the most influential visual artists of the late 20th century and reexamines the arc of his photography—from its humble beginnings in the early 1970s to the culture wars of the 1990s—and includes his most iconic images and lesser-known photographs.
In addition to the photographic work that will be on view, the exhibition also explores Mapplethorpe's expansive ouevre through early drawings, collages, sculptures, and Polaroid photography; working materials from his archive; portraits, still lifes, and figure studies; rare color photographs; and seldom-seen video works. Through the diversity—in media and method—of works displayed at both LACMA and the Getty, viewers may be able to get insight on Mapplethorpe's process and objectives in his artistic experimentation.
The exhibition is drawn from the landmark joint Getty/LACMA acquisition of art and archives made in 2011 from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.The two simultaneous presentations at the Getty Museum and LACMA are designed to highlight different aspects of the artist’s complex personality.
LACMA's presentation (March 20–July 31, 2016) highlights the artist’s relationship to New York's sexual and artistic undergrounds, as well as his experimentation with a variety of media. Additionally, a focused installation of work by other artists drawn from LACMA’s permanent collection helps place Mapplethorpe in conversation with the art of the 1980s. The companion exhibition at the Getty (March 20–July 31, 2016) explores Mapplethorpe's disciplined studio practice and his fascination with classical form and the fine photographic print.
In 2012, LACMA exhibited Robert Mapplethorpe: XYZ, focusing on the artist's X, Y, and Z Portfolios published in 1978, and 1978, and 1981, respectively. The portfolio contained some of Mapplethrope's most-iconic images, including his pictures of homosexual sadomasochistic imagery (X), floral still lifes (Y), and nude portraits of African American men (Z). Shared between two venues in Los Angeles, the exhibition next March places Mapplethorpe within a context of a city that has had a long relationship with the artist: Mapplethorpe's initially presented his controversial works were in this city.