Wednesday, April 06, 2016
Robert Mapplethorpe's art and life unsettle us, provoke thoughts and feelings usually repressed or seldom entertained. He teases us out of our complacency, overlays our images of ourselves as happy, successful, unperturbed by the extremes of life and death, with his own piercing look into the depths (or heights) of the human psyche. Yet, Mapplethorpe's work is as Apollonian as it is Dionysian; perhaps more in the realm of aesthetic control and balance than of excess. He has become an archetype himself since his work and life are inseparable. He is a shaman as well as an artist. The HBO show gives us his images, a glimpse of the surface of his life, and it may be best in giving us the reactions and stories his lovers tell. I think it is wonderful to encounter an artist who, unlike most of us, was not afraid to live life to the Hilt and to turn that experience into such sublime beauty.