Mapplethorpe's constructions from the 1970s were intimate and candid investigations of the totemic, fetishistic, nostalgic and iconic attributes of various objects. This present work is in dialogue with the Surrealist assemblages of Man Ray and André Breton, whereby an erotic image was combined with a commonplace object to reveal a newly detected sense of the Marvelous. When Mapplethorpe gifted this work to Henry Geldzahler, curator of contemporary art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and an early supporter of Mapplethorpe’s, he confided that the key was from his first room at the Chelsea Hotel. And yet, within this wonderful construction, the disparate elements collectively take on a new, mysterious and talismanic presence that surpasses their functional value.
In discussing his assemblages, Frances Terpak and Michelle Brunnick note, 'This simplified two-step method, with geometric planes of color laid over commercial material, united the two antithetical styles of minimalism and pop art and marked a leap in Mapplethorpe's aesthetic evolution, demonstrating his innate sense for veiling, cropping, and using color. Dimensional and textural effects were accomplished through delicate layering of the negative space left by chicken wire, screens, and stenciled shapes, capturing the psychedelic and surrealist optical qualities of his earlier drawings' (Robert Mapplethorpe: The Archive, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2016, p 47).
Assemblages by Mapplethorpe of this quality and provenance are exceedingly rare in the auction market. Never hung and kept in storage from the time it was made, this work retains its original quality and color, and unlike many other assemblages of this period, it is signed and dated by the artist.