ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE "BELLY BUTTON" 1986
Robert Mapplethorpe's place in the canon was earned from his incredible output of images that ranged from beautiful to brutal.
He fearlessly depicted the body (his own, friends' and lovers') in a way that positioned his work in line with masters such as Courbet, Bas Jan Ader and Marina Abramovic.
Mapplethorpe's images, regardless of subject matter, are both sensual and cerebral, delicate and menacing. Despite the sometimes shocking content of his work, Mapplethorpe's photographs posses a formalist quality and undeniable beauty and composition.
This image, is a prime example of Mapplethorpe's work in the 1980's. As Mapplethorpe's practice became more centred around studio photography, his aesthetic output in the this period demonstrated a more refined vision.
Shot in black & white, this image features a close-up shot of a man's torso with an "outie" belly button. Skin, hair, muscle, and shadow all work together to create an elegant composition, that approaches abstraction, show-casing the beauty, or oddity, of this rare occurrence in human bodies.
Mapplethorpe boldly showcased the beauty of bodies not often seen in society, much-less elevated in fine-art at that time he was working. Some of his favorite subjects include a female body-builder, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, and eventually his own body ravaged by AIDS. While an outie belly button (found in approx. 10% of the population), may not differentiate or alienate one from society in the way his other subjects experienced, this work demonstrates Mapplethorpe's ongoing challenge to beauty ideals and the subject matter of art.
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"Belly Button" (MAP#1618.2)
Gelatin silver print
USA, 1986 (printed & shot)
Signed, dated, and editioned by the artist verso.
Signed and dated in ink in the photographer's stamp mount verso.
From an edition of 10
19”H 19”W (photograph)
27.5"H 27.5"W (framed)
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