The dungeons and diamonds, the penthouses and pillow talk Jack Fritscher relives his love affair with Robert Mapplethorpe the hustler with a Hasselblad whose sexually explosive photograph stimulated and frightened America
One hundred daylights after Robert Mapplethorpes celebrity-studded funeral, the gun-loving republican politician Jesse Helms stood on the flooring of the US senate and curved a photograph in the faces of his fellow congresswomen. The black and white fire, testifying two men garmented from heading to toe in skin, was announced Larry and Bobby Kissing. Appear at the pictures! screamed Helms, who was scandalized that national governments fund had helped fund The Few moments, a Mapplethorpe retrospective in Washington DC. Search at the pictures!
Look at the pictures. Robert left a gift of millions of beautiful photos of faces, blooms and fetishes when he died of Aids on 9 March 1989 at the age of 42. He had assaulted American concepts of hasten, sex, gender issues and righteousnes. Born in Floral Park, New York, in 1946, he was on trial all of his short life, anti-gay legislation drawing him a sex veto. His work too was on trial: it operated gauntlets of homophobia to hang today in such international sanctuaries as the Tate in Britain, and the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. In 1990, at the high levels of US hysteria over Aids, a witch hunt in Cincinnati put seven of his chassis on trial, is an attempt to sorting art from profanity. Roberts photos won.
He changed popular culture. The sort of sexuality drawings he dared to hit are now shot every day by millions, minus his style, on Snapchat and Grindr. It is a victory that he is being celebrated this year in two main expoes in the US, and in the documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, out next month.