Abstracting Reality


Wheel, 1983; Gelatin silver print; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP

Wheel, 1983; Gelatin silver print; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP

Throughout his career, Edward Mapplethorpe has endeavored to traverse the boundaries of traditional black and white darkroom techniques to distill the photographic medium into subtle tonal nuances and pure geometric abstraction. This idea of rejecting figuration for an abstract, formal language has been a key aspect throughout the history of Modern Art. Examples ranging from Picasso's Cubist vocabulary to Mondrian's establishment of a compositional grid system and Stieglitz's seminal Equivalents series exemplify the collective impulse to implement realism as a springboard towards creative expression. 
 
Mapplethorpe follows in this esteemed tradition beginning early on in his career. In Wheel (1983), the lack of any visual elements aside from the graphic, symmetrical lines projecting from the circular center emphasizes the artist's reliance on geometric patterning to structure his compositions. As we continue along the forward trajectory of his oeuvre it becomes apparent that a tangible subject becomes progressively less central and less recognizable, until what is left is a minimalist vocabulary of lines and planes, as seen in the juxtaposition of Empire State Building (1993) and Untitled No. 951 (2008). Throughout, Mapplethorpe plays with our sense of perception. He succinctly illustrates Foucault's observation of how "spaces of constructed visibility" reveal how these "spaces" consequently "constitute the subject" and subsequently construct a framework of understanding that what remains visible ultimately reveals a reflection of ourselves.

(L) Melody, 1988; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP (R) Chateau Marmont Interior, 1990; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP

(L) Melody, 1988; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP
(R) Chateau Marmont Interior, 1990; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP

(L) Landscape with Nude, 1990; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP (R) Arches, 1993; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP

(L) Landscape with Nude, 1990; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP
(R) Arches, 1993; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP

(L) Seascape, 1992; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP; also edition of 7 with 1 AP: 40 x 30" (101.6 x 76.2cm) (R) Untitled, No. 968, 2008; Gelatin silver lith print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); unique

(L) Seascape, 1992; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP; also edition of 7 with 1 AP: 40 x 30" (101.6 x 76.2cm)
(R) Untitled, No. 968, 2008; Gelatin silver lith print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); unique

(L) South Water Cay, 1993; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP (R) Untitled, 2003; Gelatin silver print; 10 x 8" (25.4 x 20.32cm); Unique

(L) South Water Cay, 1993; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP
(R) Untitled, 2003; Gelatin silver print; 10 x 8" (25.4 x 20.32cm); Unique

(L) Untitled, No. 879, 2007. Photo lithograph; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10 (C) Untitled, No. 880, 2007. Photo lithograph; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10 (R) Untitled No. 881, 2007. Photo lithograph; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10

(L) Untitled, No. 879, 2007. Photo lithograph; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10
(C) Untitled, No. 880, 2007. Photo lithograph; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10
(R) Untitled No. 881, 2007. Photo lithograph; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10