Robert Mapplethorpe
Tunnel, 1983

  • Gelatin silver print
  • 20 x 16 cm
  • Acquired in 2013
  • Photography

From a contemporary point of view the work of Robert Mapplethorpe, one of the most controversial artists of the last century, appears today almost disciplined as well as intimate. The classical idealization of the body in his work attests to a type of Humanism, which regardless of the ambiguity of the gender or racial discourse exalts the human body to sculptural perfection. Arguably, Mapplethorpe elevated the photographic medium to the level of sculpture and painting. Before him, photography while appreciated, was nevertheless considered as a lower technique in the art historical hierarchy and museum departments, more as a document than an intrinsic artwork. Tunnel, 1983, is the corridor carved in volcanic stone of Cumae, an ancient site located in the south of Italy, renowned as the dwelling of an implacable oracle portrayed by Dante and Michelangelo. Ascribed as an “entrance to the underworld”, a mythological detail that echoes the somber path walked by the artist, Mapplethorpe took the picture during his sojourn in Naples to prepare an exhibition with Lucio Amelio. In the framework of a body close up, the rudimentary architecture appears like an organic orifice.

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