The Estate of Robert Mapplethorpe
The private collection of Helmut Lang, acquired in 1997 from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Philadelphia, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, The Perfect Moment, December 1988 - January 1989; and traveling thereafter to Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Washington Project for the Arts, Washington, D.C.; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford; University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley; Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati; and Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, through 1990
Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, Robert Mapplethorpe, June - July 1992; and traveling thereafter to ATM Contemporary Art Gallery, Mito; The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura; Nagoya City Art Museum; and The Museum of Modern Art, Shiga, through 1993
Paris, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Robert Mapplethorpe Curated by Hedi Slimane, October - November 2005
This unique composition:
Janet Kardon, The Perfect Moment (Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, 1988, in conjunction with the exhibition)
Germano Celant, ed., Mapplethorpe (Milan: Electa/Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 1992)
Toshio Shimizu, Robert Mapplethorpe (Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun/Tokyo Teien Museum, 1992, in conjunction with the exhibition)
Germano Celant, ed., Mapplethorpe (Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 1994)
Robert Mapplethorpe X7 (New York, 2011)
In addition to his talents as a photographer, Mapplethorpe possessed a keen understanding of three-dimensional design which he applied to the presentation of his photographic work from his first serious engagement with the medium in the early 1970s. Throughout his career, he amplified the physical presence of his images with sculptural frames of his own design, frequently incorporating other materials, such as Polaroid film cases, stained or painted wood, and fabric. Mapplethorpe's affinity for the sculptural led him to create a number of non-photographic wall pieces, of which Heart and Dagger is one. This diptych has been exhibited alongside Mapplethorpe's photographs in several important national and international exhibitions. Foremost among these is The Perfect Moment, the seminal (and highly controversial) 1988 exhibition of the photographer's work, which traveled through 1990. It was also included in the multi-venue 1992 Japanese retrospective, and in a one-man exhibition curated by fashion designer and photographer Hedi Slimane at Galerie Thaddeus Ropac in Paris in 2005. It was featured in a 1997 magazine advertisement for Helmut Lang, from whose private collection this piece comes. Of Mapplethorpe's non-photographic artworks, Heart and Dagger is perhaps the best-known.
The work consists of two heart-shaped boxes, one black, one white, each housing a dagger secured on a bed of carpet, and enclosed within wire-reinforced safety glass. Heart and Dagger is very much of-a-piece with Mapplethorpe's body of work, and encapsulates the themes of desire, death, and transgression that course through his photographs. The knife is a motif that Mapplethorpe used repeatedly throughout his career: his 1974 composition The Slave (Altars, p. 19) incorporates an actual knife within its frame. Knives reappear throughout his photographs: in the hand of the muscular, tattooed Frank Diaz; held in silhouette by Lisa Lyon; thrust into a smoke-enshrouded watermelon; or, most famously, brandished by the photographer himself (see inset illustration). As a signifier of violence, or of sexual power, the knife is a potent symbol in the photographs, and in the work offered here. The physical presence of the two gleaming, razor-sharp daggers, enclosed within the yin-yang duo of white and black hearts, creates an undeniable impact, like the best of Mapplethorpe's work.
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