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Robert Mapplethorpe, Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, 1984‘If I had been born one or two hundred years ago, I might have been a sculptor’ (Robert Mapplethorpe) Executed in 1984, Ken Moody and Robert Sherman is one of Robert Mapplethorpe’s most iconic images. Exquisitely staged, the work juxtaposes two male heads in profile, infused with the near-sculptural elegance and classical composure that defined Mapplethorpe’s still-life photographs and portraits during this period. Characteristically riddled with binary contrasts – black and white, eyes open and closed – the work uses subtle directional lighting to capture the textural nuances and undulating contours of the subjects’ facial features. Soft tonal gradations differentiate Moody’s skin from the dark background behind, throwing his visage into relief against Sherman’s ethereal pallor. The work is a platinum print – an expensive and difficult medium, typically reserved for Mapplethorpe’s favourite images, which lends the work a luminous painterly quality. Other platinum prints of this image are held in the Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the J. Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles. Having originally trained in painting and sculpture, Mapplethorpe came to prominence in 1970s New York, initially experimenting with Polaroids before gravitating towards black and white studio photography. Heavily involved in the city’s gay scene at a time of rapid social change, he fearlessly confronted taboos surrounding gender, sexuality and mortality, seeking to instil beauty and dignity into subjects that lay outside accepted social norms. Mapplethorpe first met Sherman in a members-only S club in the Meatpacking district in the late 1970s. An actor, dancer and drag performer, Sherman had lost all his hair after developing alopecia as a child, and struggled with his identity throughout his youth. Through working with Mapplethorpe, he came to embrace his appearance, modelling for him several times before the present work. For this double portrait, he was joined by Moody – a fellow alopecia sufferer, who the artist had met in 1982. ‘He was twice my size and built like a body-builder’, recalls Sherman (R. Sherman, quoted at https://archives.sfweekly.com/exhibitionist/2014/08/13/the-man-in-the-photo-art-everywhere-tells-the-story-of-an-icon [accessed 27 March 2018]). The work become the poster image for Mapplethorpe’s solo exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1988, which Sherman himself attended. Today, it remains one of the most striking achievements by an artist who delighted in the celebration of difference.

Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, 1984

Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, 1984
platinum-palladium print
signed, dated and numbered '2/3' in pencil (margin)
image: 19 ½ x 19 ¾ in. (49.5 x 50.2 cm).
sheet: 25 5/8 x 21 7/8 in. (65 x 55.5 cm.)
This work is number two from an edition of three plus one artist proof.

Other platinum-palladium prints of this image are in the collection of the Guggenheim, New York, and The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
Anon. sale, Phillips de Pury & Company New York, 16 April 2010, lot 63.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
R. Mapplethorpe, S. Sontag, Certain People: A Book of Portraits, Twelvetrees press, Pasadena, 1985. unpaged.
Exhibition Catalogue, Robert Mapplethorpe, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1988, p. 135.
Exhibition Catalogue, Mapplethorpe Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London, 1988, p. 31, pl. 11.
Exhibition Catalogue, Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, 1989, p. 77.
A. Danto, Mapplethorpe, Jonathan Cape, London, 1992, pl. 229.
Exhibition Catalogue, Mapplethorpe, Hayward Gallery, London, 1992, p. 211.
P. Morrisroe, Mapplethorpe: A Biography, Random House, New York, 1995, unpaged.
Exhibition Catalogue, Robert Mapplethorpe and the Classical Tradition: Photographs and Mannerist prints, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, 2004, pl. 81.
Exhibition Catalogue, Robert Mapplethorpe: Perfection in Form, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Florence, 2010, p. 177, pl. 75.
Exhibition Catalogue, Robert Mapplethorpe, The photographs, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2016, pl. 135, p. 173.
Monterrey, Museo de Monterrey, Becher Mapplethorpe Sherman, 1992.
Atlanta, High Museum of Art, Chorus of light: Photographs from the Sir Elton John Collection, 2000.
Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, Guggenheim Collection: 1940s to Now, 2007.
Tucson, Center for Creative Photography, Robert Mapplethorpe: Portraits, 11 July - 27 September 2009.
Aros, Aarhus Art Museum, Robert Mapplethorpe: On the edge, 17 June - 30 October 2016.
Helsinki, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Robert Mapplethorpe, 13 March - 13 September 2015.
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, Robert Mapplethorpe The perfect medium, 15 March - 31 July 2016.

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