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Mapplethorpe: A Biography

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With Robert Mapplethorpe's full endorsement and encouragement, Morrisroe interviewed more than 300 friends, lovers, family members and critics to form this definitive biography of America's most censored and celebrated photographer. 32 pages of photos. With Robert Mapplethorpe's full endorsement and encouragement, Morrisroe interviewed more than 300 friends, lovers, family members and critics to form this definitive biography of America's most censored and celebrated photographer. 32 pages of photos.


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With Robert Mapplethorpe's full endorsement and encouragement, Morrisroe interviewed more than 300 friends, lovers, family members and critics to form this definitive biography of America's most censored and celebrated photographer. 32 pages of photos. With Robert Mapplethorpe's full endorsement and encouragement, Morrisroe interviewed more than 300 friends, lovers, family members and critics to form this definitive biography of America's most censored and celebrated photographer. 32 pages of photos.

30 review for Mapplethorpe: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    David

    He’s dying in a hospital in Boston: “Mapplethorpe’s parents didn’t visit him because [his mother] had just been released from hospital and was recuperating at home. One afternoon a nurse presented him with a modest floral arrangement that he might otherwise have thrown in the trash, except for the inscription on the card that read ‘Love, Mom and Dad.’ He knew his mother was ill so it meant Harry [his father] had sent the flowers himself, and moved by the gesture of reconciliation, he turned to Kn He’s dying in a hospital in Boston: “Mapplethorpe’s parents didn’t visit him because [his mother] had just been released from hospital and was recuperating at home. One afternoon a nurse presented him with a modest floral arrangement that he might otherwise have thrown in the trash, except for the inscription on the card that read ‘Love, Mom and Dad.’ He knew his mother was ill so it meant Harry [his father] had sent the flowers himself, and moved by the gesture of reconciliation, he turned to Knaust and said, ‘Do you believe my father took of this?’ A few minutes later the nurse reappeared and apologized for the mix-up. ‘The flowers,’ she explained, ‘were meant for the patient across the hall.’” AIDS: “‘His body was being attacked from every side. It was like watching a friend being machine-gunned.’” Oh dear: “‘Let me get this straight,’ she said, dumbfounded. ‘You’re looking for an intelligent, successful black millionaire who wants you - a white man - to call him “nigger”?’ ‘I wouldn’t call him “nigger” all the time,’ he said, offended. ‘Only during sex.’”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Niklas Pivic

    Robert Mapplethorpe was an anomaly. A sometimes mediocre photographer with a keen eye for disrupting scenes through being a punk, sometimes shaking things up in ways that nobody else had done before him. He seems also to have been a parasite, a racist, a nice guy, brutal and a relentless self-serving publicity-machine. So, what draws people to Mapplethorpe? Is it because of his images of people, especially the sexually toned ones? His near-marriage with Patti Smith while living with her for seven Robert Mapplethorpe was an anomaly. A sometimes mediocre photographer with a keen eye for disrupting scenes through being a punk, sometimes shaking things up in ways that nobody else had done before him. He seems also to have been a parasite, a racist, a nice guy, brutal and a relentless self-serving publicity-machine. So, what draws people to Mapplethorpe? Is it because of his images of people, especially the sexually toned ones? His near-marriage with Patti Smith while living with her for seven years? Anything else? Probably the sex-related pictures, and the American trials for obscenity charges that followed after Mapplethorpe's death due to AIDS in 1989. Mapplethorpe was a shining example of "niceness" until he left the military academy where his parents had sent him to become "a man". "Robert was a little too intense and conservative for me. He was almost the stereotypic 'good boy.' " -Nancy Nemeth, ROTC Military Ball Queen, 1964 Mapplethorpe dropped out, moved, dabbled with drugs and blew into the art world with Patti Smith, with whom he lived for seven years. Discovering his homosexuality, which he hid from his parents for his entire life, was key. Then, interlocked with religion, pain, sex and discovering photography, everything changed. He found Sam Wagstaff, his sugar daddy and main curator, who made his career lift. The following quote from this book seems to expose a lot about Mapplethorpe: At the beginning of the semester Mapplethorpe had moved from the apartment on Willoughby Avenue to a ground-floor studio on DeKalb Avenue, which he shared with a pet monkey named Scratch. Of all the stories connected to the photographer, the monkey saga remains one of the strangest. He had purchased the animal from a Brooklyn pet store, where the owner had given him a discount because the monkey was already an adult. The owner failed to tell Mapplethorpe that Scratch wasn't housebroken, and while Mapplethorpe made a few feeble attempts at training Scratch, he pronounced the monkey "uncontrollable" and gave it the run of the apartment. The studio was soon covered in urine and feces, and when friends first came to visit they were rendered speechless by the squalor and by Scratch's habit of entertaining Mapplethorpe by masturbating in front of him. Scratch's brief and bizarre history encapsulated many of the major themes of Mapplethorpe's adult life - his preoccupation with images of death and violence; his fascination with the devil; his desire to transform the ugly, or freakish, into works of beauty. It also pointed to a darker side of his nature, which would later emerge in his sexual relationships with other men - a need to break all the rules and transgress taboos. He seemed almost like an utter misfit version of Truman Capote: a social butterfly who used his subjects to his own benefit, not for anything else; his models often spoke of feeling used in a bad way. Due to a highly promiscuous lifestyle without the use of condoms - and also due to Mapplethorpe's liking of coprophagy - he was often ill, and finally was hit with AIDS, which he denied having until the bitter end. "Robert was really running away," Myers explained. "He was so angry I kept waiting for him to explode." And explode he did, by rampaging through the gay bars to pick up black men. Mapplethorpe had confided to several friends that he blamed a black man for infecting him with the AIDS virus, but given his boast of having had sex with an estimated thousand men, he couldn't possibly know for sure. Still, he approached his task like an avenging angel, picking up one black man after another with offers of cocaine, then baiting them with the word "nigger." One man screamed at him to stop, but when Mapplethorpe still kept repeating the word, the man grabbed his clothes and ran out the door. "You're evil," the man shouted, in parting. "Evil!" Also: Mapplethorpe's racism intensified with the progression of his disease, and Kelly Edey, who had presumably heard everything, was so startled by Mapplethorpe's venomous comments that he noted one incident in his diary. Mapplethorpe was standing outside Keller's on the evening of August 2 when he suddenly began to shout, "This is the sleaziest corner in New York. How can it be that I'm standing here in the midst of all this human garbage? They're so stupid, every last one of them is so unbelievably stupid." And yet he kept returning to Keller's, hoping his demigod might rise from the debris. "A lot of people yelled at him for continuing to go to the bars," Mark Isaacson explained. "But he looked at it, like, well, that's their problem - if they're not protecting themselves, why should I worry about it? When Robert first got sick, I said to him, 'You've got to stop your old lifestyle,' and he said to me, 'If I have to change my lifestyle, I don't want to live.'" This book is the result of a massive amount of work, collected, analysed and edited over five years. The author has first and foremost interviewed Robert Mapplethorpe, and then Patti Smith, on a lot of details. This book sprawls, uncovers a lot of details - if you believe them to be true - and unveils a lot more than Smith's own book about her life with Mapplethorpe, "Just Kids". Morrisroe has interviewed Mapplethorpe's family, friends, lovers, dealers (both in art and drugs), socialites, colleagues and fans. At the very end of his life, Mapplethorpe mustered enough energy to see a Warhol exhibition, having outlived his former idol by a couple of years: [...] he stayed for two hours while Tom Peterman wheeled him past Warhol's celebrity icons - the Ten Lizes, the Gold Marilyn, the Silver Marlon, the Red Elvis, the Sixteen Jackies. Peterman found the whole event distasteful, for clearly Mapplethorpe was yesterday's story, and by fame's mercurial standards he had outlived his moment. But to Peterman's surprise, Mapplethorpe didn't seem to notice. The last show he went to was his own, where he sold loads of his photographs. Surrounded by people he didn't know he called shots from a chair while hooked up to medical equipment, "floating on air", and then, collapsing and vomiting. That might be the final word on Mapplethorpe's persona in every single way, Patti Smith exempt. All in all, the start of this book was a bit slow for me, a bit of dragging its heels, but then it got off to its real start, just as Mapplethorpe started to find himself during his latter teen years. It's a grand tale of a maladjusted man who wanted to live forever. Pissing nearly everybody off with everything he did must amount to something, right?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    - Spoilers in this review refer to sexually descriptive passages - This is a fascinating biography of the American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Much to her credit the author does not give us a hagiographic view of his life. Mapplethorpe took a journey from a middle class family in Queens into the netherworld of promiscuous sex and drugs. His rise to the top of the photographic world was much aided by Sam Wagstaff who became his “Sugar Daddy”. Sam was rich and had many contacts in the New Yor - Spoilers in this review refer to sexually descriptive passages - This is a fascinating biography of the American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Much to her credit the author does not give us a hagiographic view of his life. Mapplethorpe took a journey from a middle class family in Queens into the netherworld of promiscuous sex and drugs. His rise to the top of the photographic world was much aided by Sam Wagstaff who became his “Sugar Daddy”. Sam was rich and had many contacts in the New York art gallery world. Sam became Roberts’ classy-entry to gallery owners who otherwise would never have spoken to him. In many ways Sam became a father-figure to Robert who had cut all contact to his own family. Sam financially supported Robert; bought him a loft in the Chelsea area of Manhattan, and left him much of his estate when he died in 1987 (Mapplethorpe died two years later of AIDS). We get, aside from Sam Wagstaff, depictions of the New York City art scene – and the many characters that Mapplethorpe encountered in his short and dynamic life – especially that of the poet-singer Patti Smith. She was his first partner in Manhattan. They were both brought up in Catholic households and their artistic expression came to reflect this – and to reject it! When, Patti on many occasions, threatened to leave Robert, he told her he would become gay. Many of Robert’s relationships seemed based on dominance/submission – and Robert and Patti played both roles in their long on-again/off -again relationship. Page 203 (my book) Love was impossible with him, because the only people he wanted in life were rich people, famous people, and people he could have sex with. Marcus Leatherdale, about Robert Mapplethorpe Page 205 (Edward de Celle, a gallery owner) We had a table where we could look at the photographs. And I remember opening this box. I had seen pornography before, but his pictures were really more graphic because they’re better pictures and they draw you in more. The one that disturbed me the most (view spoiler)[was the man putting his finger into his urethra. (hide spoiler)] I was revolted but I was also mesmerized. I kept staring at these things, and I purposely didn’t react because I didn’t want to seem, I suppose, unsophisticated... You want to prove that you’re unflappable. I was happy to put the lid back on the box, and I was kind of reeling. I thought, How can I show these pictures in my gallery? Because my immediate thought was... about the teacher from the local girl’s school who always brought her class into the gallery. I kept seeing those little girls in their pleated skirts, and I thought, Oh my word! Page 179 The photographs of men gagged, blindfolded, hogged-tied were still a revelation to viewers unfamiliar with the S&M milieu. “When these pictures first appeared there were shivers and most often people turned away, myself included,” Ingrid Sischy wrote in the 1988 Whitney catalogue of the Mapplethorpe retrospective. “But no one who knew about them forgot these scenes.”... Mapplethorpe revealed his sly sense of humor in his pictures of Stevens by placing the porn star’s (view spoiler)[famous organ on a butcher block, as it it were literally a piece of meat awaiting the cleaver. (hide spoiler)] Page 252 – 53 Allen Ellenzweig, in “Art in America” , wrote: “Mapplethrope signals unambiguously that we are here to inspect: the body is its own unapologetic event. Accordingly, we have no sense of an attempted mediation between Sex and Art – the esthetic object is the sexual object, and vice versa. Fred McDarth of “The Village Voice” used blunter language: “Main picture here(view spoiler)[ is a big black dude seen in an expensive gabardine suit with his fly open and his elephant cock sticking out. (hide spoiler)] The picture is ugly, degrading, obscene – typical of the artist’s work, which appeals largely to drooling, lascivious collectors who buy them,(view spoiler)[ and return to their furnished rooms to jerk off.” (hide spoiler)] It should be emphasized that not all Mapplethorpe’s pictures were about the S&M scene. He had many striking flower pictures (which could be interpreted sexually), portraits (such as his famous picture of Patti Smith for her first record album “Horses”- see below), and more traditional nude photographs. Mapplethorpe had a lot of energy which he used to build up his vast network and collect subjects (people, flowers, objects...) for his photos. This energy was undoubtedly aided by his life-long cocaine habit. I was astounded to learn that even when his AIDS condition was worsening he kept using drugs and smoking cigarettes. As per the author Mapplethorpe helped to make photography a legitimate art form, but I am not so sure of this when I think of Edward Weston, Margaret Bourke-White, Yousef Karsh... Perhaps he made it acceptable for art galleries to exhibit photographs. He also made a considerable sum of money in his last years. And without question he broke down taboos. His photos are still controversial to this day. Mapplethorpe liked to shock – and he was more than successful at this. Interestingly he never did anything in the darkroom – he hired and paid others to do the photo processing. This book gives us a rollicking, if tragic portrait, of this era of 1970’s - 1980’s New York. Robert Mapplethorpe does not come off as a likeable person – but he did live the life he wanted. He used people. He had sex with black men whom he degraded and insulted racially. He claimed to be looking for a soul-mate but was constantly cruising for one-night stands. He would discard his partner after he photographed them. He would be very adverse to criticism (or alleged criticism) and would lambast the writer over the phone. He was a mass of contradictions. There are also some good insights about the passion of collecting; both Mapplethorpe and Wagstaff were avid collectors. This book does not contain any of the explicit photos that Robert took. In some ways it was enough to read their descriptions! There were interesting end-notes of the unsuccessful attempts of the Christian right to prohibit photo-exhibits of Mapplethrope. All religious groups can get so riled up about photos and images (think of what happened to the Charlie Hebdo people). If you don’t like them, don’t look at them! (

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

    This well-researched biography of Robert Mapplethorpe draws upon hundreds of interviews Morrisroe conducted with Mapplethorpe and his contemporaries. It's a must-read for anyone interested in Patti Smith's relationship wtih Mapplethorpe as well as her early career, as it provides a different perspective from the one she relays in Just Kids. This bio provides a lot of insight into Mapplethorpe's Catholic childhood and family life and his time in the R.O.T.C. and its Honor Society, the Pershing Ri This well-researched biography of Robert Mapplethorpe draws upon hundreds of interviews Morrisroe conducted with Mapplethorpe and his contemporaries. It's a must-read for anyone interested in Patti Smith's relationship wtih Mapplethorpe as well as her early career, as it provides a different perspective from the one she relays in Just Kids. This bio provides a lot of insight into Mapplethorpe's Catholic childhood and family life and his time in the R.O.T.C. and its Honor Society, the Pershing Rifles at Pratt Institute. Morrisroe draws lines for the reader that connect these experiences into the artist's controversial themes. There is also a full description of leather bars and the anything goes sex scene in 70s NYC. Mapplethorpe was not an easy man to work with or know and the author makes clear that many who met him disliked him for good reason. His prominence in the art world occurred because of a long-standing patronage relationship with Sam Wagstaff, but there's no denying Mapplethorpe's fierce determination to make it as a serious photographer. Sadly, many of the interviewees who assisted in the creation of this book died later of AIDS.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David M

    This is the ultimate case of a biographer who just seems really bored with her subject. I can't really blame Morrisroe. Stare at the abyss and the abyss stares back. The deeper you go with Mapplethorpe the more emptiness you find. Patti Smith tried to read him Genet but he was more interested in shopping for jeans. In this care I fear the philistines may actually be right. You'd be better off just looking at porn on the internet. This is the ultimate case of a biographer who just seems really bored with her subject. I can't really blame Morrisroe. Stare at the abyss and the abyss stares back. The deeper you go with Mapplethorpe the more emptiness you find. Patti Smith tried to read him Genet but he was more interested in shopping for jeans. In this care I fear the philistines may actually be right. You'd be better off just looking at porn on the internet.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rudy Katoch

    I own the first-edition hardback, which is important as this is where Patricia Morrisroe's work appears in its most beautiful form. It is gold. There are two self-portraits of Robert Mapplethorpe from the 1980s placed in the centre: one gracing the front and the other on the back. The 1986 self-portrait upon the cover hints at the terribilità in his expression and work. It is a quality attributed to Michelangelo by his contemporaries and applied to Mapplethorpe by his own. But, it is the the blu I own the first-edition hardback, which is important as this is where Patricia Morrisroe's work appears in its most beautiful form. It is gold. There are two self-portraits of Robert Mapplethorpe from the 1980s placed in the centre: one gracing the front and the other on the back. The 1986 self-portrait upon the cover hints at the terribilità in his expression and work. It is a quality attributed to Michelangelo by his contemporaries and applied to Mapplethorpe by his own. But, it is the the blur on his self-portrait a year before, on the back of the book, which captures the confidence of his vulnerability seen in his interviews with Morrisroe. But I see it as a death mask: a foreshadowing of his fate. It is an image which captures the emotional complex of his legacy. But what resides between the gold and silver? Between the two faces? The form of its outside betrays, and yet encapsulates, its content for it acts as counterpoint to Mapplethorpe's aesthetic and ethic. There is no analysis, critique or even engagement with his work, rather it details (what is described by Morrisroe as) a progressively degenerate lifestyle. When asked, by Dazed Digital in March 2014, if her first meeting with Mapplethorpe in 1983 helped her see his images more objectively, she responded: "Probably. Also, he shot them in such a cool, detached way that at first they didn’t seem obscene or pornographic, just strange and exotic." The key words here are 'probably' and 'just'. Analysis of his work in the biography is also presented through adverbs. But, commentary of his work is not the purpose of the biography. What arguably is the 'cool, detached way' she has rendered his life can be interpreted as disdain without nuance. The black and white image presented to us by Morrisroe does not encompass the wider tonal range of meaning of Mapplethorpe's work, life and thoughts. "Happiness? It’s not there for me." There is no exegesis. There is no explication. Mapplethorpe's statement could have been the opening to a different narrative arc. I will go to Paris to see two retrospectives of his work at the Grand Palais and the Musée Rodin in the following weeks. This is the only book I will take with me other than his photogravure series for Arthur Rimbaud's A Season in Hell. You may ask why. The book itself imbues the reader with a mood in the grammatical sense. The modality of his life is experienced temporally. We have the 1960s. We have the 1970s. We have the 1980s. Across these decades, the reader is taken to New York. We walk through its suburbs—ascend to its penthouses—slink past doors and into dark rooms—stumble out into the cold night—onto wet asphalt—under neon lights—roll onto black silk sheets—black skin—white skin—pushed onto white marble floors—smell blood and taste shit—feel the sting of a hand—a syringe—death. It is salacious, humorous, with elements of profundity and moments of judgement. It is shallow as the pool of vomit that kills you but has the feeling of depth like the hand being pulled into an anus. The beauty and horror, the quick and the dead, hang upon the wall of our minds like Diane Arbus's freaks and Paul Outerbridge's geometry. The focus on sensory perception than cognitive attention is flawed, yet entertaining. Problematic, but accessible. Not obscene, but strange. Not pornographic, but exotic. I would have rather an examination of his radical exoticism, than simply the presentation of it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Suzy

    I read Maplethorpe’s bio after I read Patti Smith’s Just Kids. I liked her take on this part of Maplethorpe’s life better. It wasn’t easy to hear/read about living in NYC with no money. Or the terrible hazing inflicted on Maplethorpe while trying to please his father by joining the Pershing Rifles, the military honor society at Pratt. Glad I read it. People are complicated.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michael Flick

    For me, this was a hard book to like. The author had access to Mapplethorpe and most of the people who had contact with him. The book is detailed without succumbing to the problems that plague most biographies of the living or recently deceased: repetition and drivel. It's well written and edited. All that is what is good about it. What's not so good: First, there are numerous photographs, appropriate for a biography of a photographer, but they are poorly reproduced, murky and unfocused. It's eas For me, this was a hard book to like. The author had access to Mapplethorpe and most of the people who had contact with him. The book is detailed without succumbing to the problems that plague most biographies of the living or recently deceased: repetition and drivel. It's well written and edited. All that is what is good about it. What's not so good: First, there are numerous photographs, appropriate for a biography of a photographer, but they are poorly reproduced, murky and unfocused. It's easy enough, though, to find excellent copies of Mapplethorpe's work online (just google Mapplethorpe and click "Images"). Was he a photographic genius or just a pornographer skilled at public relations? You decide. His greatest art seems to have been promoting himself. But second, he was a vapid, shallow, despicable individual, a monster at the end of his life when he set out to kill as many black men as possible by infecting them with HIV. "Artistic genius" isn't an excuse for that. New York City feted just this sort of fame monster in those times: Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, and Roy Cohn come to mind, all perhaps best forgotten, buried by time. I don't feel I get much from reading about them.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shannan

    I was compelled to read Mapplethorpe after reading Patti Smith's "Just Kids," (another amazing book), and have to say that Mapplethorpe was fascinating, heartbreaking, poignant, thought-provoking, and probably the best book I read all last year. He was such an intriguing figure, pushing every boundary of societal norms and moral conventions. I was compelled to read Mapplethorpe after reading Patti Smith's "Just Kids," (another amazing book), and have to say that Mapplethorpe was fascinating, heartbreaking, poignant, thought-provoking, and probably the best book I read all last year. He was such an intriguing figure, pushing every boundary of societal norms and moral conventions.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    This book was an extremely thorough biography of Mapplethorpe. I was inspired to read it after reading "Just Kids" by Patti Smith; it provides more insight into Mapplethorpe himself and some alternate information on Smith. It is not for the faint of heart or conservative reader. This book was an extremely thorough biography of Mapplethorpe. I was inspired to read it after reading "Just Kids" by Patti Smith; it provides more insight into Mapplethorpe himself and some alternate information on Smith. It is not for the faint of heart or conservative reader.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nyx Wyt

    An excellent snapshot of Robert Mapplethorpe's life and career. An excellent snapshot of Robert Mapplethorpe's life and career.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Thorough, illuminating, and unflinching. Morrisoe doesn’t miss a moment or a detail. The last piece of the book, as Mapplethorpe and his circle decline and die of AIDS, is gut-wrenching in the way it makes the reader realize, in addition to the sheer numbers, how much talent and culture were lost to AIDS.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Although this book seems completely thorough in detailing all the events of Robert Mapplethorpe's life and work, I found it filled with spite and general ill wishes that were thinly disguised. It seems the subject gave the author complete permission to write this book, and even possibly told his friends and business acquaintances to "tell the truth", reading this book left a bad taste in my mouth. I read it voraciously, as I've become entranced and enamored with this man's life and work as of la Although this book seems completely thorough in detailing all the events of Robert Mapplethorpe's life and work, I found it filled with spite and general ill wishes that were thinly disguised. It seems the subject gave the author complete permission to write this book, and even possibly told his friends and business acquaintances to "tell the truth", reading this book left a bad taste in my mouth. I read it voraciously, as I've become entranced and enamored with this man's life and work as of late, but find it difficult to believe that this beautiful soul became so angry at the end of his life as she indicates here. To say he was selfish and self-absorbed could be said of any true creative artist, and he WAS that, so belaboring this point throughout the book grew tedious for me to read. Still I couldn't not read it. It was like watching a trainwreck. I couldn't look away. In the end, I was saddened greatly at how his life ended in such pain, but it seems he wasn't. He went on creating and basking it his fame until the very end. In death, this man's work still shines and speaks for itself, no matter what anyone wants to make of him or it. I feel a kinship with a man I never met and can only know through his work. He was complicated, completely honest in how he lived his life, and a little lost boy at his core. RIP Robert...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rafa Lombardino

    I definitely took longer to finish this one... It did have about 100 pages more than each of the other five books I've read this year, but the subject wasn't easy either. It's not that I was appalled by the descriptions of his photographs and lifestyle; it's just hard to read about someone self-destructing. Still, it's like a car crash and you can't avoid looking to see what happened. A couple of months ago his name wouldn't ring a bell. A couple of weeks ago I actually got a joke that Bill Mahe I definitely took longer to finish this one... It did have about 100 pages more than each of the other five books I've read this year, but the subject wasn't easy either. It's not that I was appalled by the descriptions of his photographs and lifestyle; it's just hard to read about someone self-destructing. Still, it's like a car crash and you can't avoid looking to see what happened. A couple of months ago his name wouldn't ring a bell. A couple of weeks ago I actually got a joke that Bill Maher made about him. Watching "The Basketball Diaries" last weekend for the first time, I caught myself thinking whether a nameless character that appeared for a brief couple of minutes in the movie could've been a way for Jim Carroll――the main character and author of the book by the same name――to pay tribute to Mapplethorpe, whom he had known in real life. At least now I know the story of someone who changed not only the New York art scene, but pushed forward through times of deep changes in society and definitely one of the strongest social dramas of my lifetime: the AIDS epidemic.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Bobandra

    I liked reading this book. I am an artist and photographer and enjoyed reading about New York's struggling artists of the time. I also was a child when all of this was going on so it was interesting to get a different perspective of the era. There was a lot more detail in this book than in Patty Smith's book, Just Kids. One thing this book prompted me top do was to do some recent research in AIDS. I remember when it started in San Francisco and all of the things they discovered about it through t I liked reading this book. I am an artist and photographer and enjoyed reading about New York's struggling artists of the time. I also was a child when all of this was going on so it was interesting to get a different perspective of the era. There was a lot more detail in this book than in Patty Smith's book, Just Kids. One thing this book prompted me top do was to do some recent research in AIDS. I remember when it started in San Francisco and all of the things they discovered about it through the years. We don't hear much about people dying from it as we used to but really, people in the poorer parts of the world are dying from it at the same rate if not more. It's a shame we don't have a cure yet.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Eischeid

    Slow starting but quick-to-escalate bio of a very complicated figure in both gay and art history. Mapplethorpe's background is richly painted and grows into its own portrait of an internally tortured soul who grew up into a crazed libertine that quaked the world with his S&M imagery and devil may care lifestyle. His boundary pushing can be an acquired taste, but is an important one when viewing modern sexuality and its presentation, as well as what constitutes art. Not going to say the man was p Slow starting but quick-to-escalate bio of a very complicated figure in both gay and art history. Mapplethorpe's background is richly painted and grows into its own portrait of an internally tortured soul who grew up into a crazed libertine that quaked the world with his S&M imagery and devil may care lifestyle. His boundary pushing can be an acquired taste, but is an important one when viewing modern sexuality and its presentation, as well as what constitutes art. Not going to say the man was perfect as his final exhibition had in its name, because he was often a monster, but this is a valuable slice of history to be consumed and digested as to how to inform our future of artistic freedom.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Cashman

    I've been intrigued by his work since I first encountered his name while I was in art school in the early '90s. His name carries a legacy or a weight associated with his images and the boundaries he pushed. Many of the photographs Maplethorpe produced can challenge even a jaded urbanite. This book provides detailed insight into the man and his work. It goes fairly deeply into his history, his kinks, his relationships and his rise to success and subsequent decline as he deteriorated from drugs an I've been intrigued by his work since I first encountered his name while I was in art school in the early '90s. His name carries a legacy or a weight associated with his images and the boundaries he pushed. Many of the photographs Maplethorpe produced can challenge even a jaded urbanite. This book provides detailed insight into the man and his work. It goes fairly deeply into his history, his kinks, his relationships and his rise to success and subsequent decline as he deteriorated from drugs and AIDS. If you've read Patti Smith's "Just Kids" this is a great follow up and colors in some details around their relationship, as artists and friends.

  18. 5 out of 5

    J David

    Mapplethorpe A Biography is an absorbing book but having read recently Sam Wagstaff Before and After Mapplethorpe there is a good bit of redundancy. You will experience Mapplethorpe from his early years in Floral Park until is young death from AIDS in Manhattan. I finished the book not liking Mapplethorpe who was too self absorbed, narcissistic, self referential and simply a greedy self interested pain in the ass. Nonetheless I am glad I read the book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kizer

    If you had hoped to learn something about Robert Mapplethorpe's photography this is the wrong place to look. If you want salacious sex stories, well it takes all kinds. The beginning of the book does give interesting insights into the relationship between Robert and Patti Smith but the overall story rings hollow. I'd recommend waiting for Patti Smiths book " Just Kids". If you had hoped to learn something about Robert Mapplethorpe's photography this is the wrong place to look. If you want salacious sex stories, well it takes all kinds. The beginning of the book does give interesting insights into the relationship between Robert and Patti Smith but the overall story rings hollow. I'd recommend waiting for Patti Smiths book " Just Kids".

  20. 5 out of 5

    mazal bohbot berrie

    Mapplethorpe, only in your constellation could you have such a boring biographer. You had a brilliant life and deserve better. I love your adolescent guts, but I have to put you away so I can read my second wave, gender studies books. But I will be back soon. Luv, Leslie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stéphanie Amesse

    Well-researched and well-written, but the author gets lost when she tries to explain Mapplethorpe's work in the context of his sexuality. A good read nonetheless, but definitely no ground-breaking insights. Well-researched and well-written, but the author gets lost when she tries to explain Mapplethorpe's work in the context of his sexuality. A good read nonetheless, but definitely no ground-breaking insights.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Austin

    Glad I read it, but I got upset during the second half. Patti Smith really only covered the lovely parts and the tragedy of his life. She skipped out on the evil and mean parts of his life. Can't wait to go spend time at the exhibition for real next week. Glad I read it, but I got upset during the second half. Patti Smith really only covered the lovely parts and the tragedy of his life. She skipped out on the evil and mean parts of his life. Can't wait to go spend time at the exhibition for real next week.

  23. 4 out of 5

    rebecca

    you'll find most of my books are biographies....no real reason except that if I am going to escape for a while I'll read about someone else's life.... you'll find most of my books are biographies....no real reason except that if I am going to escape for a while I'll read about someone else's life....

  24. 5 out of 5

    Robert Vaughan

    Love, love, love him and his work.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    It offers insights in Mapplethrope and his creative mind.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    A really stunning biography of Robert Mapplethorpe that I read to clarify after reading Patti Smith's "Just Kids". IMO, a lot better than Smith's book. A really stunning biography of Robert Mapplethorpe that I read to clarify after reading Patti Smith's "Just Kids". IMO, a lot better than Smith's book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Linda Edquist

    Seem to be in a biography frame of mind and this ones is reading like it will be a very interesting look at the 1970's NYC art culture and the birth of the gay pride movement. Seem to be in a biography frame of mind and this ones is reading like it will be a very interesting look at the 1970's NYC art culture and the birth of the gay pride movement.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Bio of controversial photographer that's completely biased by the author's distaste of her subject's lifestyle. Bio of controversial photographer that's completely biased by the author's distaste of her subject's lifestyle.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Interesting read. Was only familiar with the subject from some of his artwork.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dar

    About the book and its authorship: This is an authorized biography based on hundreds of hours of interviews with Mapplethorpe and his contemporaries. Mapplethorpe died in 1989; the book was published in 1995 - when the artist's legacy was still unknown. This was a plus for me, since the author didn't speculate about his artistic immortality, only stating what was evident at the time. She gave a 360 view that included the perspectives of his family, friends, lovers, employees, business associates About the book and its authorship: This is an authorized biography based on hundreds of hours of interviews with Mapplethorpe and his contemporaries. Mapplethorpe died in 1989; the book was published in 1995 - when the artist's legacy was still unknown. This was a plus for me, since the author didn't speculate about his artistic immortality, only stating what was evident at the time. She gave a 360 view that included the perspectives of his family, friends, lovers, employees, business associates, society circles and the media. Morrisroe did not create the book to appease fans, but wrote a multifaceted account that included much more criticism than praise. This is an achievement! I was fascinated from cover to cover. About the artist and his story: Mapplethorpe drew on pornography to make a new genre of sexual art works. In the process, he helped to legitimize and popularize photography as an art form. He created sculptural nude compositions akin to still life photography, and sexualized flower photos akin to erotica. His style has been copied so much that it’s now the norm for both nudes and flowers. He was a provocateur who photographed a range of S&M activities in which he participated; all of which were shocking in the 1980s, and a few of which are still shocking now. He fetishized Black men as sexual objects and was despicably racist. I needed to separate the book from the person because Mapplethorpe was a train wreck. His actions toward his fellow human beings (lovers and mentors especially) were deplorable. Yes, underneath he was insecure and looking for love. With a veneer of charisma, he used and abused everyone in his life. High drama in the art world with a side order of S&M nightlife in NYC…this book has it all.

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