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The San Jose Museum of Art will showcase portraits by American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) in an exhibition opening January 29, 2011. Robert Mapplethorpe: Portraits features more than 100 black-and-white photographs by Mapplethorpe. Organized by the Palm Springs Museum of Art, this exhibition is the first comprehensive overview of Mapplethorpe’s portraiture since the artist’s death at the age of 42. It presents a very different side of Mapplethorpe than those familiar with the notorious controversy that surrounded his famous nudes may expect.  The exhibition includes portraits of celebrities and influential figures in the arts scene in New York in the late 1970s and 1980s.

“Robert Mapplethorpe had an eye for classical balance and perfection, whether photographing still-lifes, the human figure, or the portraits that, perhaps surprisingly, make up earliest and the largest part of his photographic oeuvre,” said Susan Krane, Oshman Executive Director at the San Jose Museum of Art. “At once timelessly elegant and strikingly intense, Mapplethorpe’s portraits—made both of his own initiative and on commission—bring to life the legendary cultural scene of New York in the late 1970s and 1980s and document several generations of influential creative personalities.”

This exhibition includes black-and-white photographs of nearly 100 artists, art dealers, writers, musicians, designers, dancers, actors, and actresses—many of whom changed the course of literature, visual art, and music—including William Burroughs, Truman Capote, Glenn Close, Marianne Faithfull, Grace Jones, Richard Gere, Keith Haring, David Hockney, Lisette Model, Alice Neel, Yoko Ono, Paloma Picasso, Iggy Pop, Isabella Rossellini, Ed Ruscha, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Andy Warhol. Many of the images are on loan from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, New York.

This exhibition and the accompanying catalogue by noted art historian Gordon Baldwin, formerly of the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, reveal Mapplethorpe’s contribution to the history of photography and the evolution of the modern portrait.

This exhibition was organized by the Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, California, with the assistance of guest curator Gordon Baldwin. The exhibition is sponsored in part by the Helene and Lou Galen Exhibition Fund and the Faye and Herman Sarkowsky Exhibition Fund.