Wadsworth Atheneum presents first exhibition to pair the work of Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe

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Wadsworth Atheneum presents first exhibition to pair the work of Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe
Robert Mapplethorpe, Brian Ridley and Lyle Heeter, 1979. Gelatin silver print, The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, N.Y. © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

HARTFORD, CONN.- “Warhol & Mapplethorpe: Guise & Dolls”—the first major exhibition to pair the work of renowned artists Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe—opens Oct. 17, 2015, and runs through Jan. 24, 2016, at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn. “Guise & Dolls” will showcase approximately 100 paintings, photographs, Polaroids, prints, videos and pieces of ephemera. Patricia Hickson, Emily Hall Tremaine Curator of Contemporary Art, is organizing the exhibition.

Focusing on New York in the 1970s and early 80s, “Guise & Dolls” will explore the vibrant and tumultuous era of change through the work of Warhol and Mapplethorpe, both of whose work in portraiture and self-portraiture evoke particular disguises, characters and ambiguous personalities. The exhibition will offer a close look at the artists’ portraits of each other, self-portraits and a selection of iconic portraits of sitters that address role-playing and gender roles—masculinity, femininity and androgyny. These portraits are presented alongside numerous other works and ephemera that demonstrate the artists’ engagement with gender, identity, sexuality, beauty, performance and disguise—subjects that emerged during the lively period of gender fluidity and sexual freedom during the rise of the gay rights movement in the 1970s.

“It is astonishing to think that the works of Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe— two artists who both created significant bodies of work in self-portraiture—have not been examined together before now,” said Hickson. “We are eager to present these particular bodies of work in portraiture prominently and in conversation with one another, and to shed light on the artists personally and in the context of the times. Many issues they raise are still timely today.”

“Guise & Dolls” will focus on several prominent bodies of work from each artist’s oeuvre: Warhol’s “Ladies and Gentlemen” series (1975) of drag queen portraits, Christopher Makos’s “Altered Images” series of Warhol in drag, Mapplethorpe’s photographs of lifelong friend and longtime muse Patti Smith that range from masculine to feminine and Mapplethorpe’s photographic series and book, “Lady: Lisa Lyon” (1983) of the female bodybuilding champion in numerous gender-bending guises. Androgynous and cross-dressing subjects, including Bob Colacello, Candy Darling and Grace Jones will also be presented.

Both Warhol and Mapplethorpe are embedded in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s history. They have both been subjects of the museum’s MATRIX solo exhibition series: “Andy Warhol / MATRIX 50” (1979) featured the “Still Life (Hammer and Sickle)” paintings of 1976, and “Robert Mapplethorpe / MATRIX 80” (1984)—curated by former Wadsworth Atheneum curator and Mapplethorpe’s lover Sam Wagstaff—presented 20 gelatin silver prints and photogravures of “Flowers” (1983). The Wadsworth Atheneum also participated in the much publicized and controversial touring exhibition, “Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment” (1989). In 1999, the museum organized the exhibition, “About Face: Andy Warhol Portraits,” which traveled to the Miami Art Museum in 2000.

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