Jim, Sausalito (1977)
About this artwork
Crouching in a dark bunker is ‘Jim’, clad in leather boots, trousers and mask – all typical of the gay S&M scene. The triangular shape formed by his body is bathed in light from above, as his gloved hands hold on to the rungs of a ladder which forms a grid of horizontals and verticals in the left half of the image. The man may look like the Beast in the Pit, but he seems attracted to the light above. Mapplethorpe, who was brought up a Catholic, was constantly drawn to the ambiguous relationships between light and dark, good and bad, heaven and hell. The figure’s gaze out of the frame suggests that perhaps he is not alone.
- title: Jim, Sausalito
- accession number: AR00198
- artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
- gallery: In Storage
- object type: Photograph
- medium: Gelatine silver print
- date created: 1977
- measurements: 34.20 x 34.20 cm (framed: 50.80 x 40.60 cm)
- credit line: ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
- copyright: © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.
- photographer: Antonia Reeve
The American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe became famous, not to say, notorious, in the 1970s and 1980s for his photographs of the male nude and sexually explicit, gay imagery. Although often considered controversial, Mapplethorpe tested the right to individual freedom of expression. These images were not meant to be titillating or obscene but beautiful in a traditionally classical way. His work, therefore, holds a significant place in the history of artistic struggle to depict the world as it is, with honesty and truth. His nudes, when considered alongside his portraits of children and flower photographs, show him to be overwhelmingly interested in the beauty and transience of life. Mapplethorpe, even when facing death from AIDS, affirmed the beauty of the here and now.