Robert Mapplethorpe emerged in the 1970s and became a defining artistic voice of the 1980s. The political uproar surrounding his exhibition, The Perfect Moment, brought attention to his erotic imagery, yet Mapplethorpe also created a vast body of work that included figure studies, portraits, flowers, and still life, for the most part based on classical ideals of measured order and compositional balance. Hauntingly beautiful and often fiercely brave, Robert Mapplethorpe’s work changed the way we look at a photograph, or indeed any image. In this strikingly simple image of a flower arrangement, the shape of a triangular vase is echoed in the vertical stems and paper backdrop, while the sinewy lines of the orchids stretch out from the center. A master of composition, as well as the shifting black and grey tonalities of the medium, Mapplethorpe creates an exquisite image out of the simplest subject. During his lifetime, Mapplethorpe participated in documenta 6 in 1977, and the Whitney Museum held his first major American museum retrospective in 1988, a year before his death. In 2013, exhibitions of his work were held simultaneously at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Getty Museum.
flower, 1981 © robert mapplethorpe foundation. used by permission.