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Author John Rechy Born (March 10, 1934)

Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe Dies of AIDS (March 9, 1989)

Robert-Mapplethorpe-Self-Portrait-1975 Robert_Mapplethorpe_Lacma-11 AIDS claimed Robert Mapplethorpe  in March 1989 when he was just 42 years old.  He became famous for his striking black and white photographs, many explicitly homoerotic with an S&M edge.  Whenever I hear or read Mapplethorpe's name three things come to mind: Patti Smith, the photograph "Man in Polyester Suit" and Cincinnati, Ohio. 



  • Rock singer Patti Smith & Mapplethorpe were romantically involved as young adults and lived together in NYC from the late 1960s to mid-70s (when he realized he was gay).  


  • "Man in Polyester Suit" is one of Mapplethorpe's most famous photographs.  It shows a black man wearing a suit with his rather large, uncut penis hanging out of the fly of his pants.  It's the image I remember most after viewing a Mapplethorpe exhibit at the Whitney Museum in 1988.  And since it was life-sized it really grabbed your attention. 




  • In 1990 Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center and its director went on trial on charges of obscenity for organizing a Mapplethorpe exhibit that included some of his explicit homoerotic images (e.g. Mapplethorpe shoving the handle of a whip up his ass).  They were found not guilty.   Although thei lawsuit was about just a few photos in the exhibit, in actuality Mapplethorpe's body of work covered much more than gay S&M.


Black_white_gray_imagesCACU4VQN Although many books about Mapplethorpe have been published, the documentary Black White + Gray reveals the life he had with his partner Sam Wagstaff, whose financial support and social connections were instrumental in boosting Mapplethorpe's career.



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