Jack in the Pulpit

Robert Mapplethorpe

New York, USA, 1946 - 1989
  • Date: 
    1988 / Printed 1989
  • Technique: 
    Gelatin silver print on paper
  • Dimensions: 
    Image: 58,7 x 49 cm / Support: 60,5 x 50,8 cm
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Robert Mapplethorpe was one of the highest-profile photographers in the popularisation of gay activism in the 1980s. His work was based on (mainly male) nude photography, often featuring celebrities connected to gay subculture. However, Mapplethorpe’s photography, behind its carefully groomed exterior, was never afraid to assault the viewer’s gaze or to scandalise public morality, as can be seen in the numerous sado-masochistic scenes he photographed and the controversy that they created in the neo-conservative climate of the USA. From the 1980s onwards, floral themes began to form a large part of his work, which began to evolve more towards refinement, and a focus on classical forms of beauty, the only genre in which he worked in colour.
In photographs like Jack in the Pulpit, Mapplethorpe pushed back the boundaries of the still life. Flowers, like his portraits, were presented in carefully set-up compositions that combined curved and phallic forms, loaded with a sensuality and aesthetic that was identical to that of the human body, in order to emphasise their sexual nature. The way the light and shade play on the flowers, which occupy the entire space, accentuates the relationship of the photograph to pleasure and eroticism, themes that run through all Mapplethorpe’s work.

Salvador Nadales