Light Into Form


Torso / Maryanne, 1990 Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); edition of 10, 2 AP; also edition of 3: 30 x 30" (76.2 x 76.2cm)

Torso / Maryanne, 1990
Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); edition of 10, 2 AP; also edition of 3: 30 x 30" (76.2 x 76.2cm)

Mapplethorpe's masterful handling of light has remained constant over the past three decades, resulting in often hauntingly luminous images. This formal device, coupled with his use of geometry and movement as compositional motifs has enabled the artist to capture and memorialize otherwise fleeting images.

The artist's keen sense of proportion and pictorial arrangement within the picture plane and his use of light and shadow is exemplified early on in Torso/Maryanne (1990). In this image, as in others, the human form becomes a surface for the artist to deconstruct and re-define. The rectilinear grid of the window maps the contours of the body by dictating the torso with its shadows. These shadows concurrently activate the negative space, thus becoming as central to the image as the physical form; functioning as both material and subject.

The artist's penchant for using natural light in his Undercurrents series introduces the element of chance to the mix. The moody atmosphere in Rock Garden Interlude (1993) was achieved exclusively through tonal variations of daylight filtered through water and the silhouetted coral feels like a trace of the object rather than documentation of the real thing. In later works including those from the CompositionsHAIR Transfer and TimeLines series Mapplethorpe harnesses light to create complex constructions of seemingly pulsing straight edges, planes and curves elevating it to function as both medium and subject. The graphic network of lines that compose Variation No. 28 from 2011 were drawn exclusively by the use of exposure of chemicals to light.

(L) Foot, 1988; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10; 2 AP: 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm) (R) Melody, 1988; Gelatin silver print; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP

(L) Foot, 1988; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10; 2 AP: 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm)
(R) Melody, 1988; Gelatin silver print; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP

(L) Christ on Scale, 1991; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP (R) Untitled, No. 941, 2008; Gelatin silver lith print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); unique

(L) Christ on Scale, 1991; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP
(R) Untitled, No. 941, 2008; Gelatin silver lith print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); unique

(L) Rock Garden Interlude, 1993; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP (R) Untitled, 2000; Ink on paper; 11 x 9" (27.94 x 22.86cm); unique

(L) Rock Garden Interlude, 1993; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP
(R) Untitled, 2000; Ink on paper; 11 x 9" (27.94 x 22.86cm); unique

(L) Untitled, 1999; Ink on paper; 11 x 8.5" (27.94 x 21.59cm) (R) Composition #2, 2000; Gelatin silver print 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 5, 3 AP; also edition of 2: 50 x 40" (127 x 101.6cm)

(L) Untitled, 1999; Ink on paper; 11 x 8.5" (27.94 x 21.59cm)
(R) Composition #2, 2000; Gelatin silver print 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 5, 3 AP; also edition of 2: 50 x 40" (127 x 101.6cm)

Variation No. 28, 2011 Gelatin silver prints; Triptych: 64 x 128" (162.6 x 325.1cm) overall, each panel 64 x 42" (162.6 x 106.7cm); unique

Variation No. 28, 2011
Gelatin silver prints; Triptych: 64 x 128" (162.6 x 325.1cm) overall, each panel 64 x 42" (162.6 x 106.7cm); unique