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Lisa Lyon cropped from thigh to waist caked in mud.

Lisa Lyon, 1982

Mapplethorpe Light and Dark

PARIS — Judith Benhamou-Huet is co-curator of the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibitions in Paris, at the Musée Rodin and the Grand Palais. She is also the author of “Dans la vie noire et blanche de Robert Mapplethorpe” (Inside the Black and White Life of Robert Mapplethorpe), published in April in Paris. The book tracks Mapplethorpe’s exploration of sex, love and success, based on testimony from lovers, friends and models. Ms. Benhamou-Huet spoke recently with Nazanin Lankarani about the book and the exhibition at the Musée Rodin.

Q. How did you become interested in the connection between Mapplethorpe and Rodin?

A. The starting point was Mapplethorpe’s own statement that he could have been a sculptor. He photographed statuary at the end of his life. It seemed an interesting confrontation to set his work against that of a giant of sculpture, Auguste Rodin.

Q. How do the works selected for the exhibition demonstrate the link between the work of the two artists?

A. In setting Mapplethorpe’s black and white images against the monochromatic sculpture of Rodin, it became apparent that both artists faced the same challenges in representing form and movement in their respective mediums. There is a point at which the discourse of the photographer comes very close to that of the sculptor. For instance, one could see that both artists created a sense of movement using light against shadow, by angling forms in movement and by giving a visual sense of body texture.

Q. Other than their art, is there a common thread between the two artists in terms of their lives or their passions?

A. Sexuality was a central theme in the lives of both. It could explain their respective desire to express sensuality in the shape of bodies, flowers or objects in their work.

There are many striking similarities in the sensuality expressed in Rodin’s sculpted, fragmented bodies and in Mapplethorpe’s bodies photographed with certain parts concealed.

Q. What does your book add to the public’s understanding of Robert Mapplethorpe, the man, 25 years after his death?

A. Mapplethorpe is often viewed as an ambitious man with little morality. But he was also an aesthete, a loving and generous man who dwelled in a highly refined universe. The book reveals a more subtle and less judgmental view of a complex personality.