10 Things About Robert Mapplethorpe + ‘Triptych’
Learn about photographer/artist Robert Mapplethorpe’s legacy before UMS’s world premiere of Triptych: Eyes of One on Another on March 15 & 16, 2019.
1. Robert Mapplethorpe didn’t begin his career as a photographer
In his early career, Mapplethorpe created assembled constructions and collages. These works tended to be mixed medium, combining painting, found objects, and cut outs of pornographic magazines and religious postcards. He took up photography after the encouragement from his friends John McKendry, a curator, and Sam Wagstaff, a gallery owner and Mapplethorpe’s eventual lover.1
2. His early photography was deeply rooted in 1970s New York
Mapplethorpe and his close friend and roommate Patti Smith were involved in the 1970s New York music and art scenes, frequenting legendary venues such as Max’s Kansas City and CBGBs. Mapplethorpe photographed two iconic album covers of that era: Patti Smith’s Horses and Television’s Marquee Moon. During this time, Mapplethorpe also was a staff photographer for Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine.2
3. Mapplethorpe’s work was often controversial
During his time of rising popularity, Mapplethorpe photographed the New York’s BDSM scene in which he was involved. With regard to his work, Mapplethorpe stated, “I don’t like that particular word ‘shocking.’ I’m looking for the unexpected. I’m looking for things I’ve never seen before … I was in a position to take those pictures. I felt an obligation to do them.”3
Mapplethorpe’s work has the power to upend beliefs about black/white, female/male, queer/straight, art/porn, sacred/profane, classical/contemporary, low art/high art, and political/personal.
4. Mapplethorpe was a go-to photographer for celebrity portraits
He shot portraits of Andy Warhol, William Burroughs, Patti Smith, Philip Glass, Iggy Pop, Peter Gabriel, Grace Jones, Cindy Sherman, Truman Capote, and, of course, himself!4
5. There is a strong sense of classicism throughout his work
Mapplethorpe had an intense focus on balance, harmony, and order. Traces of classical art can be found in his treatment of the body, which was often reminiscent of sculpture. Throughout his career, he also recalled classical composition in his photography of flowers and other still life objects. This often created a tension in his work between the erotic subject matter and his “high art” depictions.
About the Production…
6. A theatrical world premiere
UMS presents the world premiere full theatrical staging of Triptych: Eyes of One on Another (the concert version premieres at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles on March 5). In addition to vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth and a chamber orchestra, UMS’s production at the Power Center will feature large-scale, theatrical projections of Mapplethorpe’s work (which may include graphic, sexually explicit content).
7. Bryce Dessner’s Cincinnati connection
Composer Bryce Dessner recalls the controversy and censorship trial of Robert Mapplethorpe’s 1989 collection of photographs at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center…
8. A broadening of perspective
Librettist Korde Arrington Tuttle found profound meaning in Mapplethorpe’s perspective during his college years…
9. Roomful of Teeth
The innovative, GRAMMY-winning vocal collective Roomful of Teeth was recently profiled in The New Yorker: “From death metal to throat singing to alpine yodelling, the experimental group is changing what it means to harmonize.” Take a listen:
10. A 30-Year Reflection
This premiere event takes place 30 years after Robert Mapplethorpe’s untimely death from AIDS on March 9, 1989. UMS is proud to present this work on the influence of Mapplethorpe’s bold, voracious view of how human beings look, touch, feel, hurt, and love one another.