Rodin and Mapplethorpe: Sculpture, Photography, and Obsession

The curators of the Rodin Museum have put sculpture and photography side by side in an exhibition which ends September 21st. When I first read about it, I thought the two artists and the two media were so disparate that the exhibit might not be coherent. I have seen Mapplethorpe’s work, notably in the exhibit that was banned in Cleveland (or was it Cincinnati?). And I have been to the Rodin Museum in Paris and seen Rodin’s works elsewhere.

And here’s the thing: This juxtaposition makes a lot of sense. Both media are essentially black and white or bronze and white or grayscale. No color to distract, no flashing lights, no sound. Just the thing in itself. Both artists were obsessed with nudes, with bodies at rest or in motion. Mapplethorpe had a sculptural eye, evidenced by an amazing self-portrait of his arm – all muscle and tendon and contrast. The picture looks 3-d. Some of Rodin’s sculptures show the image resolving from the matrix, as photographs used to do back in the days of developing tanks. You could see the image slowly appear, rising from the white paper.

Mapplethorpe, notoriously, preferred the male body; Rodin preferred the female. Both are good at either.

Mapplethorpe also captured the most wondrously pure images of flowers, which I expect will be strewn amongst the scandalous nudes (men in backless chaps and so on).

Some of the poses used by Rodin and Mapplethorpe are almost identical. Perhaps some artists solve the same challenges in the same way? The curators have juxtaposed them, using themes such as Damnation. One is invited to agree or disagree.

A word of warning: Based on the Mapplethorpes I have seen, this exhibit will not be suitable for children. Parents might want to preview the work before taking adolescents. People uncomfortable with very candid images of men with some very interesting accessories should avoid this exhibit.

If you go, plan on having a lot to talk about at the cafe in the museum gardens.

Musee Rodin
79 rue de Varenne, Paris 7th
Metro: Invalides
Closed Mondays
Open Tues- Sun 10 am – 5:45 pm
Late Wednesdays until 8:45

+33 1 44 18 61 10

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