Month: September 2010

Robert Mapplethorpe at the Towner Gallery

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I went to the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne yesterday.

I thought it was a great cross-section of his work – from the portraits of Patti Smith and other artists and muscicians, to nudes, still-lifes of flowers and the more shocking stuff.

His use of light (particularly on skin) is stunning and somehow reminiscent of the luminosity you usually see afforded to saints in religious paintings.

His composition is inspiring too – it’s so subtle so almost don’t notice it: the light and shade behind his subject, a pipe running along the wall in the background; the zig-zag of Patti’s body offset against a radiator…

There’s a racial element to his work that I can’t unpick, and he was occasionally criticised for the way he used his black models. I don’t think there’s any underlying racism, but there is something that makes me feel uncomfortable about his picture of Grace Jones decked out as a voodoo doll (complete with body painting by Keith Haring).

My favourite pictures? Patti Smith and the radiator, David Hockney yawning, and Louise Bourgeois holding a very rude sculpture of hers and smiling a very knowing smile.