Playing with the edge: the photographic achievement of Robert Mapplethorpe

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University of California Press, 1996 - Art - 194 pages
Arthur Danto's assessment of the achievement of Robert Mapplethorpe is a lucid and graceful introduction to a controversial artist by the most distinguished philosophical critic of the arts in our time. While fully addressing the most public dimensions of Mapplethorpe's career--the branding of his work as pornography and the legal and censorship issues that surround the exhibition of his photographs--Danto's essay breaks with common responses by offering a fascinating and deeply sympathetic account of Mapplethorpe's aesthetics.
In Playing with the Edge, Arthur Danto returns the discussion of Mapplethorpe to a consideration of his artistic legacy. He refuses to retreat from the sexual content of Mapplethorpe's images, claiming that the content and the artistic character of the photographs simultaneously invite and deflect the charges of pornography and together define the importance of Mapplethorpe's work. Danto discerns the images' uniqueness in the relation of trust between the photographer and his subjects.
Through a fascinating exploration of the relation of Mapplethorpe's images to those of other artists (Titian, Sherman, Winogrand, Cartier-Bresson, Golub) Danto presents a compelling argument for Mapplethorpe's enduring position in the history of art, no less than the history of our times.
FROM THE BOOK:"There is a tension at the heart of Robert Mapplethorpe's art, verging on paradox, between its most distinctive content and its most distinctive mode of presentation. The content of the work is often sufficiently erotic to be considered pornographic, even by the artist, while the aesthetic of its presentation is chastely classic--it is Dionysiac and Apollonian at once. The content cannot have been a serious possibility for a major artist at any previous moment in history. It is particular to America in the 1970s, a decade Mapplethorpe exemplifies in terms of his values, his sensibilities, and his attitudes." Arthur Danto's assessment of the achievement of Robert Mapplethorpe is a lucid and graceful introduction to a controversial artist by the most distinguished philosophical critic of the arts in our time. While fully addressing the most public dimensions of Mapplethorpe's career--the branding of his work as pornography and the legal and censorship issues that surround the exhibition of his photographs--Danto's essay breaks with common responses by offering a fascinating and deeply sympathetic account of Mapplethorpe's aesthetics.
In Playing with the Edge, Arthur Danto returns the discussion of Mapplethorpe to a consideration of his artistic legacy. He refuses to retreat from the sexual content of Mapplethorpe's images, claiming that the content and the artistic character of the photographs simultaneously invite and deflect the charges of pornography and together define the importance of Mapplethorpe's work. Danto discerns the images' uniqueness in the relation of trust between the photographer and his subjects.
Through a fascinating exploration of the relation of Mapplethorpe's images to those of other artists (Titian, Sherman, Winogrand, Cartier-Bresson, Golub) Danto presents a compelling argument for Mapplethorpe's enduring position in the history of art, no less than the history of our times.
FROM THE BOOK:"There is a tension at the heart of Robert Mapplethorpe's art, verging on paradox, between its most distinctive content and its most distinctive mode of presentation. The content of the work is often sufficiently erotic to be considered pornographic, even by the artist, while the aesthetic of its presentation is chastely classic--it is Dionysiac and Apollonian at once. The content cannot have been a serious possibility for a major artist at any previous moment in history. It is particular to America in the 1970s, a decade Mapplethorpe exemplifies in terms of his values, his sensibilities, and his attitudes."

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PLAYING WITH THE EDGE: The Photographic Achievement of Robert Mapplethorpe

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One of our leading postmodern critics captures, in decorous prose, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe's putatively outrageous social and aesthetic vision. As art critic for the Nation, Danto (Philosophy ... Read full review

Playing with the edge: the photographic achievement of Robert Mapplethorpe

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Describing and dissecting Mapplethorpe's oeuvre and place in art history might be given as an entrance exam for aspiring critics. Perhaps no other contemporary photographer has been so widely written ... Read full review

Contents

Rosie 1976
12
THE PHOTOGRAPHIC
23
Elliot and Dominick 1979
69
Copyright

6 other sections not shown

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About the author (1996)

Art critic and philosopher Arthur C. Danto was born in 1924. He received a B.A. from Wayne State University in 1948 and a M.A. and a Ph.D. from Columbia University, in 1949 and 1952, respectively. He began teaching at Columbia University in 1951 and has been a professor since 1966. He has received many fellowships and grants including two Guggenheims, ACLS, and Fulbright, and has served as Vice-President and President of the American Philosophical Association, as well as President of the American Society for Aesthetics. His book Encounters and Reflections: Art in the Historical Present, a collection of art criticism, won the 1990 National Book Critics Circle Prize for Criticism. He is also the art critic for The Nation and an editor for the Journal of Philosophy.

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