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Polaroids: Mapplethorpe
At the Block Museum, Northwestern University. Through April 5, 2009.

Polaroids: Mapplethorpe highlights the young Robert Mapplethorpe's experimentation with his first camera, a Polaroid he was given in 1970. Ninety-seven black-and-white Polaroids taken between 1970-1975 reveal his developing interests as he begins to inspect everything around him with a photographer's eye. Friends and lovers, remarkable and unremarkable subjects caught his attention, while the progression of images shows the evolving focus toward elements that would later become part of his formal photographic work. When handed his first camera, Mapplethorpe initially sought to generate material for his homoerotic collages. The impulse could easily have descended into a flow of risqué trivia. That it did not, but rather aroused in him a lasting fascination with the possibilities of the camera and the people in its lens, is the intriguing thought behind these photographs. Mapplethorpe aficionados will get the most out of the glimpse into the artist's earliest impulses, which are most meaningful in the context of his professional work. Some nudity, some explicit content. The accompanying book, available at the museum, expands on the exhibition with essays and nearly 300 of the Polaroid images. At the Block Museum through April 5, 2009.

Image: Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled (self-portrait), 1973/75, Polaroid. © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

--Katherine R. Lieber

Katherine R. Lieber has edited ArtScope.net's Visual Arts reviews since 1998. Ms. Lieber is Editor and Associate Producer for ArtScope.net.

Editorial Note: The exhibition catalogue Mapplethorpe: Polaroids and other books related to www.artscope.net reviews may be purchased through ArtScope.net's Amazon.com link or by clicking on the link above.

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