New York, Whitney Museum of American Art


Following the news that Polaroid is to end its instant film production, this exhibition on Robert Mapplethorpe's Polaroids is timely as well as insightful. Mapplethorpe made over 1,500 Polaroids between 1970 and 1975 when he was in his twenties. In contrast to the classical, orchestrated images that he made later in his studio, the Polaroids reveal spontaneity and immediacy. The show assembles over 100 black-and-white works, including many that are being exhibited for the first time. Small and intimate, they take in self-portraits, figure studies, still lifes, bondage, and portraits of lovers and friends, such as Patti Smith, Sam Wagstaff, and Marianne Faithfull.

As Sylvia Wolf, who curated the show in collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, says, the Polaroids were about "Mapplethorpe learning to see photographically." The rapid results also corresponded with Mapplethorpe's desire to see his images developed quickly. Indeed, in 1988 he described photography as "the perfect medium, or so it seemed, for the '70s and '80s, when everything was fast. If I were to make something that took two weeks to do, I'd lose my enthusiasm. It would become an act of labor and the love would be gone."

May 3 through September 14, 2008
Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue
New York City
T.+1 212 570-3633