I happened upon this new book of Robert Mapplethorpe's early Polaroids around the same time I read Ryan McGinley's recent interview of Jack Walls (Mapplethorpe's long-term boyfriend). Both the collection of black-and-white photographs and the interview are as great for their content as they are for insights into an era not usually glimpsed elsewhere. McGinley's involvement is like the exclamation mark highlighting how relevant Mapplethorpe's work is currently.
The slip-covered monograph itself touches on the themes—flowers, women, homosexuality—that Mapplethorpe would later become known for, but also includes a range of intimate still-lifes and portraits that lend depth to the artist's vision. Photos of telephones, children, shoes, friends (several of Patti Smith), lovers (presumably) and self-portraits all bear Mapplethorpe's elegant compostion and his ability to create a powerful yet "artless" image. As he's quoted in the accompanying essay, referring to the intense feeling of looking at sealed pornography at a newstand, "I thought if I could somehow bring that element into art, if I could retain that feeling, I would be doing something that was uniquely my own."
Pick it up from Amazon.
The book anticipates an exhibit of the Polaroids at the Whitney that opens 3 May 2008 and runs through 7 September 2008.