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(Art Info) Cincinnati Hosts Mapplethorpe Symposium 25 Years After Trial

Posted May 27, 2015 in

"In October of 1990, a jury acquitted Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) and its director Dennis Barrie of obscenity charges — the cause, “Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment,” a photography exhibition deemed criminally inappropriate for its stark depictions of less-than-vanilla homosexual sex acts. At the time, art censorship was all the rage, especially regarding ties to public funding; the Corcoran cancelled their intended run of the same Mapplethorpe show a year prior for fear of backlash, not to mention the NEA Four and their famously pulled funding. (See also, as cited by a concurrent New York Times article, the nail-biting case against 2 Live Crew.) As such, Cincinnati’s Mapplethorpe win represented an important precedent for art institutions and an overall banner day for free speech. But amid all the scandalizing over sex versus championing its right to be shown, it’s easy to lose sight of the artist and his creative intent — to form an opinion without even really looking at the work. Enter “Mapplethorpe + 25,” a symposium co-presented byFotoFocus and the CAC, which aims, at least in part, to reexamine the artistic legacy of so famously controversial a photoset, just in time for the verdict’s 25th anniversary.

On October 23 and 24, the CAC will host panels of artists, curators, critics, and scholars to discuss Mapplethorpe’s legacy — including opening keynote speaker Germano Celant, editor of several Mapplethorpe books, and closing keynote speaker Catherine Opie, also known for her boundary-pushing, queer-inflected photographs."

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