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Ken Moody
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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, 1983
Gelatin silver print
15 3/16 x 15 1/4 in.
2011.7.16

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The model Ken Moody poses face front, eyes closed, centered in a simple composition characteristic of the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe's clean aesthetic. His perfectly hairless head, face, and body, the result of alopecia universalis, appear to take on a sculptural weight and dimension. The dark shadows of the background seem to lap at his neck, shoulders and under his arms, as if he emerges from a timeless, dark sea. The sophisticated lighting also sculpts the curves of his face, collarbone, and chest to further heighten their elegant forms.

This figure study is part of a large body of work featuring African-American men. Mapplethorpe was absorbed by the texture and color of their skin, which he referred to as bronze. He used Agfa's Portriga 118 paper for its ability to produce the velvety texture and glow discernible in this reproduction. His strong, uncluttered compositions of statuesque male models fused a classical sensibility with homoerotic content at a time when the male nude was not a popular subject among camera artists.