Robert Mapplethorpe's Instant Precious Relics

Made in his early, druggy years, Mapplethorpe's Polaroids reveal an artist in curious transition

St. Sebastian meets foreplay.
Whitney Museum of American Art
St. Sebastian meets foreplay.

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Polaroids: Mapplethorpe
The Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue
Through September 7

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Do lovers today cradle their PDAs as tenderly? Something dies in us when old technologies are laid to rest, something about the specific relation to reality they allow us. When, last February, the Polaroid corporation announced that it would stop manufacturing instant film, countless individuals—from artists like Chuck Close, Lyle Ashton Harris, and Lucas Samaras to fashion stylists and buyers—began mourning. (Some of the mourners' stories are collected at SavePolaroid.com.) Mapplethorpe wasn't one to look back, but, one senses, he might have joined them.

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