“Who Killed Robert Mapplethorpe?” was created for the INSIDE OUT exhibition at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1990. (INSIDE OUT was one of the first exhibitions about AIDS in the United States.) The piece is a twelve-part painting/installation about the impossibility of communicating subjective experience. At what point did we become more interested in what Mapplethorpe represented as a perpetuator of the myth of the New York avant-guard and a cause celebre for the re-evaluation of the NEA than we did in who he was as an artist and as a person with AIDS? What is lost in translation between feeling and form, intention and outcome? By reinterpreting now-familiar images created by Robert Mapplethorpe along with those of Andy Warhol, Duchamp, and Man Ray, I have inserted into the exhibition personal questions that informed my curatorial position. At what point does the original gesture of grief and rage become lost and become an object of historical inquiry and cultural speculation? At what point does an image of high art become an image of popular culture, vernacular, low art, gay folk art?
Each of the panels is 36″ square. Overall dimensions, 12′ x 9″.