Mapplethorpe: A Biography
The brilliant photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1946–1989) was one of the most infamous figures of the contemporary art world. Patricia Morrisroe, drawing on the numerous interviews she conducted with him and those who know him, has written a remarkable biography that reveals a life even more daring than his art.
Published by Random House in 1995. Paperback edition by Da Capo Press in 1997.
[The author] has succeeded in re-creating the photographer’s world of light and dark… Morrisroe’s [book] is as mesmerizing as Mapplethorpe’s stare in his self-portraits.
An utterly admirable biography… This is a courageous book; Morrisroe went to the bottom of the box and did not flinch at the things she found there… The clarity and honesty of Morrisroe’s portrait are worthy of its subject.
Morrisroe’s compelling work… provides intimate, often painful, details of [Mapplethorpe’s] rigid Catholic upbringing, the sexual obsessions that drove him to the gay S&M scene, and his intense relationship with rock singer Patti Smith and aristocratic lover Sam Wagstaff. The definitive biography.
The cool handling of hot material, which gave Mapplethorpe’s work its characteristic edge, also distinguishes Morrisroe’s account of the work and the life… She has created a kind of postmodern portrait of the artist… One of the books strengths is her elegant discussion (and description) of Mapplethorpe’s photographs…What she has done is bring his character, and its context, alive.
In this riveting biography Morrisroe comes a lot closer to the real man and his times than have all the pious tracts and memoirs… Anyone who was there will find the book perhaps the truest picture to date of an important corner of the New York art and social world during the past twenty years… The book is a valuable corrective, and a major study of the darkly shaded life of an American artist.
An engrossing saga… The context she creates for him is extensive, and she documents it dazzlingly. The result is an illuminating portrait taken from more angles than Mapplethorpe ever used in his photography.