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Solid Form: Mapplethorpe-Rodin

I see things like they were sculptures. It depends on how that form exists within the space.
-- Robert Mapplethorpe
I never gave Robert Mapplethorpe much respect. I liked some of his imagery but saw it mostly as exotic and sensational. I’m coming around after seeing him paired with Auguste Rodin.

There is a Mapplethorpe retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris, through July, which I have yet to see. The Musée Rodin has organized an exhibit of 102 of Mapplethorpe’s photographs, alongside fifty of Rodin’s sculptures.

The pairing was a bit of an enlightenment for me. Both artists sought the same chiseled human form, one in clay and stone, the other through highly stylized, black and white photography. Rodin searched for grace, spontaneity, and fluidity in unforgiving materials, while Mapplethorpe was the epitome of control, with no spontaneity whatsoever.

The similarities are striking. The tension in the forms, the flow of drapery, and the consideration of the figure in space gave me a new awareness of an erotic sensuality in Rodin’s figures and a deeper understanding and respect for Mapplethorpe.

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