“Why Mapplethorpe’s Photographs Remain Subversive, Even without the Shock Value”

March will be 30 years since the death of Robert Mapplethorpe, an anniversary that several retrospectives mark this year. Triptych (Eyes of One on Another) is one. The Guggenheim has just opened a new Mapplethorpe retrospective, Implicit Tensions, and a new biopic is due at the start of March. For Artsy, Jonathan Arn takes on the latter two, considering the subversive power that Mapplethorpe’s work retains in an era when less and less is shocking. “With his usual keen eye for texture,” Arn writes, “Mapplethorpe emphasizes bulging veins and bristly pubic hair, celebrating what’s wild and animalistic about sexuality, everything [Jesse] Helms tried to cover up, but couldn’t erase.” See some of those images during Triptych at Big Ears 2019.

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