This week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast features Los Angeles County Museum of Art curator Britt Salvesen and artist Catherine Opie on the occasion of LACMA’s presentation of three Robert Mapplethorpe portfolios: The “‘X Portfolio,” which features sadomasochistic imagery; the “Y Portfolio” of floral still-lifes and the “Z Portfolio” of nude portraits African-American men.
LACMA installed the three portfolios — apparently the first time an American art museum has exhibited them since the late 1980s — in October, 2012. They’ll remain on view in the museum’s Ahmanson Building, in a gallery just inside the front door, through March 24. Salvesen, who organized the installation, hung the three portfolios in staggered horizontal rows on dark red walls. The installation is LACMA’s first presentation of Mapplethorpe’s work since LACMA, the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute jointly purchased Mapplethorpe’s art and archive, including over 1,900 editioned prints, more than 1,000 non-editioned prints, 200 unique mixed-media objects, over 160 Polaroids, 120,000 negatives and related archival material. The museums are planning a major retrospective for 2016.
Salvesen is the head of LACMA’s photography department. Previously she was the director and chief curator of the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona. She has curated exhibitions of Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Harry Callahan, Danny Lyon and a group exhibition re-examining the landmark “The New Topographics” show.
Opie was the subject of a retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2008. Her “Twelve Miles to the Horizon: Sunrises and Sunsets,” is on view at the Long Beach Museum of Art through March 24. She will debut a new series of work at Regen Projects in Los Angeles later this month. Opie is widely considered the foremost synthesizer of Mapplethorpe’s work: Not only has Opie also focused her lens on leather and SM communities as did Mapplethorpe, but she shares his interest in portraiture and composition. In 1999 Opie made a series of seven photographs titled the “O Portfolio,” a response to Mapplethorpe’s “X Portfolio.”