Robert Mapplethorpe said, “I wait for that magical moment, then I take the picture.”
He was an artist willing to take a risk, walking a tightrope of dangerous beauty between the demands of a perfectionist and the abandon of a free spirit. Hegel, the German philosopher, used the term “Aufheben” to fuse its three meanings: to negate, to preserve and to transcend. “Aufhebung” is the optimum concept with which to address the sexuality of Mapplethorpe’s most controversial images. The content is preserved, but within the framework of Mapplethope’s photographic process it is also negated and it is transcended. It can no longer be reduced to content alone. The visionary power of his pictures of Lisa Lyon, the first female American body building champion, anticipated the idealized fit woman of the nineties.
Mapplethorpe’s work of the seventies and eighties combine classical visual balance and symmetry with a sense of timelessness and an enduring subversive charge. It is a memory of what the future used to look like.