Seeing as the summer is coming to a fast close, I've decided to side step the bum rush of fall shows for a moment and cast my glance back to a warmer time in May/June of 2011.
When a friend suggested that I check out a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition at Sean Kelly gallery back in June, I wasn’t too thrilled. I have had my fill of Mapplethorpe over the years and as wonderful as his work is, I asked myself, “What’s the point?”
Damn! I’m glad I asked. Kelly answered with a conceptual exhibition that was nothing short of a resurrection; and it was fifty “every day” people who breathed life into what could be seen as a familiar body of work.
50 Americans, an exhibition that featured fifty works by Robert Mapplethorpe.
The gallery invited a diverse range of Americans one from each state to select a single artwork from 2,000 plus images in Mapplethorpe’s oeuvre.
The participants were instructed to choose a photo that spoke to them. Each image included in the exhibition was supported by personalized text that explained why the participant who selected it found it to be meaningful.
Every day we are bombarded with cheap opinions from blogs and social networking sites, so it is quite refreshing to see this common touch used so eloquently… and an interesting choice in format as well knowing that Mr. Kelly refuses to have anything to do with the likes of mainstream networking.
Art dealer Sean Kelly is a self made man both refined and gritty so I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that the exhibition was his brainchild. I even heard that Kelly had to grapple with the estates rigid overseers regarding the conceptual element of the show; thank god he won!
50 Americans exemplifies the man’s vision and tenacity.
So while I don’t agree with the gallery’s recent acquisition of Kehinde Wiley, in light of this exhibition I’ll forgive the transgression.