During the 1970s, Robert Mapplethorpe and singer-songwriter Patti Smith (American, born 1946) lived together in New York’s infamous and much-mythicized Chelsea Hotel. There he began shooting Polaroids for use in collages. Finding that he was further drawn to the photographic medium, he began to take pictures with a medium-format camera of his friends and acquaintances, many of whom were fellow artists, musicians, socialites, members of the gay and S&M underground, and pornographic film stars. While his photos were often shocking, Mapplethorpe was most concerned with adhering to formal compositional elements, such as color, texture, and balance, and the beauty that they could evoke. In the 1980s, he turned to studio photography and executed formal portraits and pictures of nudes and flowers. This one of ten images in a portfolio, entitled “Flowers,” featuring etchings created by hand from the original photographic positive prints. These velvety, sumptuous images reference the portrait tradition as much as that of the still life.
Label from For the Love of Things: Still Life, February 27–May 29, 2016