The Indexical Trace of Time


Maryanne, 1989 Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP

Maryanne, 1989
Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP

One of the limitations of photography, or any two-dimensional medium, is the possibility of only capturing one specific moment in time. Mapplethorpe has attempted to circumvent this by engaging movement as a medium. In the spirit of Eadweard Muybridge, Étienne-Jules Marey and other 19th century photographers Mapplethorpe also documents physical movement, though to very different effect. Stars (1994) was created by a time elapsed exposure of an American flag propelled by the wind from an electric fan. The repetition of the symbol on a formless ground along with the shifts in perspective provides the illusion of the stars falling through space. Meanwhile, their physical identity as an object becomes reduced to an element of formalistic patterning.

It is through this use of movement that Mapplethorpe briefly returned to the figure with his Transmograph series. These images were recorded through large blocks of manipulated ice that subsequently created a shifting screen between the artist and model and whose transient, melting surfaces reflected and distorted the subject over time. Often, as seen in David (1995) the fragmented visage of the sitter is refracted and reduced to a modulated tonal scale that abstracts the figure almost completely. Often times, and especially in the later works, the resulting image is merely a trace of the original ephemeral inspiration. For example, in Variation No. 22, from The Variations series, the artist implements a unique process whereby colorless chemicals are applied onto traditional black and white photographic paper over time—utilizing chance as an important aspect to the creative process. Mapplethorpe innovatively strives to situate his works within time and space, a trait that categorically falls outside the realm of traditional photography.

Lisa, 1990 Gelatin silver print; Diptych, 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm) each; Edition of 3, 1 AP

Lisa, 1990
Gelatin silver print; Diptych, 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm) each; Edition of 3, 1 AP

(L) Hands, 1987. Gelatin silver print; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP (C) American Flag, 1994. Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 5, 1 AP (R) Stars, 1994. Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 5, 2 AP; also edition of 5: 28 x 28" (71.12 x 71.12cm)

(L) Hands, 1987. Gelatin silver print; 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP
(C) American Flag, 1994. Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 5, 1 AP
(R) Stars, 1994. Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 5, 2 AP; also edition of 5: 28 x 28" (71.12 x 71.12cm)

(L) Water Surface Study, 1992; Platinum print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 7, 1 AP; also gelatin silver print edition of 10, 2 AP (R) Water Surface Study, 1992; Platinum print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 7, 1 AP; also gelatin silver print edition of 10, 2 AP

(L) Water Surface Study, 1992; Platinum print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 7, 1 AP; also gelatin silver print edition of 10, 2 AP
(R) Water Surface Study, 1992; Platinum print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 7, 1 AP; also gelatin silver print edition of 10, 2 AP

(L) Easter Lilies, 1995; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP (R) David, 1995; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP

(L) Easter Lilies, 1995; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP
(R) David, 1995; Gelatin silver print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); Edition of 10, 2 AP

(L) Violin D from the EOS portfolio, 2003; Iris print; 10 x 8" (25.4 x 20.32cm); edition of 10, 2 AP (R) Cello from the EOS portfolio, 2003; Iris print; 10 x 8" (25.4 x 20.32cm); edition of 10, 2 AP

(L) Violin D from the EOS portfolio, 2003; Iris print; 10 x 8" (25.4 x 20.32cm); edition of 10, 2 AP
(R) Cello from the EOS portfolio, 2003; Iris print; 10 x 8" (25.4 x 20.32cm); edition of 10, 2 AP

Variation No. 22, 2011 gelatin silver print; 42 x 64" (106.7 x 162.6cm); unique

Variation No. 22, 2011
gelatin silver print; 42 x 64" (106.7 x 162.6cm); unique

(L) Untitled, No. 862, 2007. Chromogenic print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); unique (C) Untitled, No. 860, 2007. Chromogenic print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); unique (R) Untitled, No. 861, 2007; Chromogenic print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); unique

(L) Untitled, No. 862, 2007. Chromogenic print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); unique
(C) Untitled, No. 860, 2007. Chromogenic print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); unique
(R) Untitled, No. 861, 2007; Chromogenic print; 24 x 20" (61 x 50.8cm); unique