'Mapplethorpe's frank photographs crackle with danger' - Teller on Mapplethorpe, review

Robert Mapplethorpe: Madeline Stowe, 1982
Robert Mapplethorpe: Madeline Stowe, 1982

A naked black youth is posing for the camera on a beach. With his athletic physique and arms extended outwards, he calls to mind a famous ancient Greek bronze sculpture of a god ready to hurl a thunderbolt. Except, unlike Zeus, this beardless man is softly smiling.

Oh, and there’s something else too. Greek artists tended to represent male genitals on a modest scale. But the unabashed model in this photograph, which was taken by the American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, is sporting an erection.

This is the thing about Teller on Mapplethorpe, a new exhibition at the Alison Jacques Gallery in central London, featuring 45 of Mapplethorpe’s photographs selected by the German fashion photographer and artist Juergen Teller. If you decide to visit, be under no illusion: many of its X-rated images are shocking, and one or two will even make you wince.

Robert Mapplethorpe: Tattoo Artist's Son, 1984

Mapplethorpe, of course, is known for the...

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