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Tulips
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© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Jointly acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by The David Geffen Foundation, and The J. Paul Getty Trust

Robert Mapplethorpe
American, 1978
Gelatin silver print
13 15/16 x 13 15/16 in.
2011.7.9

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I don't want to leave too much to chance.
--Robert Mapplethorpe

The ruffled silhouette of this bouquet of tulips contrasts with the geometric shapes of black, white and grey around it. Mapplethorpe carefully arranges these elements so that a traditional subject, the floral still life, becomes, quite literally, edgy. The composition is disconcerting, as a viewer is uncertain how the vase can balance on the corner of the table, or how exactly the planes of the foreground and background are angled. The resulting image is at once lovely and vaguely unsettling.

Mapplethorpe's diverse body of work also included fashion, nudes, portraits, and erotic and sadomasochistic subjects, and is distinguished by an elegant, classical sensibility with an undercurrent of darker complexity.