Sherman's March:
A Review of Robert Mapplethorpe's Eye to Eye

by Tony Phillips

Robert Mapplethorpe’s brand-new best friend Cindy Sherman salon-stacks an exposition that could very well be titled wall to wall.

Sherman’s March
Perhaps direct compete doesn’t preclude friendship, but the revisionist door to both their relationship and his oeuvre has been open since Mapplethorpe left the building in 1989. Here, with a mixture of modesty — her own 1983 portrait is tucked away in Sean Kelly’s office — and command, Sherman slams it shut on the quite literally arresting images he achieved. This isn’t your leather daddy’s Mapplethorpe retrospective.

Universal Mother
The first gallery presents just two works, but advances Sherman’s point so clearly the 55 remaining images become redundant. A 1988 self-portrait crops everything but Mapplethorpe’s eyes, then directs that penetrating gaze toward his catty-corner 1980 portrait of black model Lee Leigh. Drooping photo paper and umbrella fill are as prominent as the gloriously nude Lee. It’s a cruel rug pull on Mapplethorpe’s perfect moment. The second gallery frames an entire wall around nightlife empress Chi Chi Valenti with other portraits drafted to draw the eye. All roads — limbs, heads, gazes — lead to Valenti, the only perp in this lineup with the hands-on-hips cojones — somewhat visible through her sheer metallic body stocking — to stare down Mapplethorpe’s gaze.