Mapplethorpe in Sheffield

At lunchtime today I managed to squeeze in a visit to the current Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition running at Sheffield’s Graves Art Gallery as part of the ARTIST ROOMS on Tour.  One of the real joys of living in Sheffield is the ability of the Museums to pull in such high quality exhibitions – actually seeing the prints first hand, rather than on a printed page, is a much more intimate experience.

This is, of course, an exhibition worth visiting if you’re in or around Sheffield before the end of March (it closes March 27).  However, there are a couple of disappointments. One is the captioning, which seems heavy-handed in its analysis, and distracts from the images themselves. The other is the actual range of Mapplethorpe’s photographs on display.  His work is often shocking, but this collection is certainly on the tamer end of things, with few of his very powerful (and controversial) nudes, or his exceptional flower still-life images, which stand as some of the strongest still-life images ever shot.  The images in this exhibition that linger longest in your mind are his self-portraits at his peak and shortly before his death, which are hauntingly beautiful.

The book on sale alongside the exhibition is ‘Robert Mapplethorpe’ by Robert F Hartley (2006), which contains all of the images from this exhibition, plus some of the ones I felt were missing. And the reproduction of the book is wonderful, with much simpler captions. Definitely worth a look itself.