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Self Portrait With Camera: Invitation To Light Gallery Opening January 6 1973 by Robert Mapplethorpe


Self Portrait With Camera - Invitation To Light Gallery Opening, January 6, 1973 by Robert Mapplethorpe

Self Portrait With Camera - Invitation To Light Gallery Opening, January 6, 1973; Silver print from Polaroid negative, with adhesive dot; Robert Mapplethorpe blind-stamp lower edge, Signed Robert Mapplethorpe and dated 73 in black ink verso; With original Polaroid sleeve; Size - 3 x 3 3/4", Sheet 3 1/2 x 4 1/2", Frame 21 3/4 x 16 3/4"; Framed using a black wood frame, acid free mats, and UV conservation clear glass.


"I'm looking for things I've never seen before. But I have trouble with the word 'shocking' because I'm not really shocked by anything... Basically, I'm selfish. I did (those photos) for myself- because I wanted to do them, because I wanted to see them. I wasn't trying to educate anyone. I was interested in examining my own reactions." - Robert Mapplethorpe


Robert Michael Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) was an American photographer most known for his black and white photographs featuring an array of subjects including: celebrity portraits, male and female nudes, self-portraits, and sill-life images. His most controversial works documented and examined the homosexual BDSM subculture of New York City in the late 1960's and early 1970's. A 1989 museum exhibition of his works, entitled Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment, sparked debate and outrage concerning the use of public funds for what was deemed by some as "obscene" artwork. There was public discord surrounding the US Constitutional limits of free speech, and what was deemed to be art.


In 1970 Robert Mapplethorpe bought a Polaroid camera so he could take photographs to use in his collages. But he began to appreciate the quality of the Polaroid photographs which led to his first exhibition: Polaroids which was on January 6, 1973 at Light Gallery, 1018 Madison Avenue, New York. For the invitation, Mapplethorpe took a self-portrait in the mirror, holding his Polaroid camera in front of his bare crotch. Three hundred gelatin silver prints were made from the negative and embossed with Mapplethorpe's name. Either a red or white dot was applied to the front to conceal his penis - a way to avoid the laws forbidding the circulation of nudity through the US mail. Information about the opening's location and time, and the photograph (slipped inside the protective paper that came with the Polaroid film which read on the outside "DON'T TOUCH HERE, Handle Only On Edges, Polaroid Polacolor Land Film, Pack Type 108") were tucked into a think cream-colored Tiffany envelope and mailed.

Harold Jones, then director of Light Gallery, remembers the opening as crowded with uptown collectors, downtown hustlers, artists, musicians, and celebrities. The scene that Jones recalls was an early indicator of Mapplethorpe's appeal across socioeconomic lines. It also signaled a growing audience for photography.

For the book Polaroids Mapplethorpe by Sylvia Wolf, 2008; which was published in collaboration with the exhibition of the same name at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York features Self Portrait With Camera - Invitation To Light Gallery Opening, January 6, 1973 on the front cover and the original Polaroid sleeve on the back cover. This is Robert Mapplethorpe's first photography exhibit announcement and is also an early signed nude self-portrait from an extremely rare a and would be a wonderful addition to any art collection!


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