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Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989)
Ken Moody and Robert Sherman
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 19 11/16 × 15 7/8 in. (50 × 40.3 cm) Image: 15 1/8 × 15 3/16 in. (38.4 × 38.6 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc.
Rights and Reproductions Information
© artist or artist’s estate
In this luminescent black-and-white photograph, Robert Mapplethorpe portrays two of his friends–a black man, Ken Moody, and a white man, Robert Sherman. The subjects are rendered in profile and appear unusually still, a quality that would later mark Mapplethorpe’s still-life photographs of flowers. Set against a uniform dark background, the work highlights its own contrasts: closed eyes and open eyes, black and white, texture and smoothness, tension and harmony. In this study of quiet, classical beauty, even the men’s physical imperfections appear smooth and polished. These extraordinary effects result from Mapplethorpe’s punctilious engagement with the details of the photographic process, from the selection of film and paper to nuances of staging and lighting. He often shot five or six rolls of film to produce a single photograph.