From the time he made his earliest Polaroid images, Mapplethorpe used the camera as a tool for self-exploration.
Determined to erase the boundary between his art and his life, he portrayed himself frequently throughout his career.
For his self-portraits, he took on various personas, from a bohemian aesthete and a leather-clad rebel in the 1970s to a sophisticated artist in black tie in the late 1980s.
Some of his self-portraits are confrontational, presenting the artist in sexual scenarios previously unseen in fine art. Others quote from art history, manifesting Mapplethorpe’s sly sense of humor and love of masquerade.
His later self-portraits, such as the image of his blurred profile as he turns his head, suggest a powerful awareness of the transience of life and his vulnerability in the face of the AIDS crisis.
Art and life converged...
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