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Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati revisits controversial Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition
Anna Wu. Twenty Three Years, 2014. Photograph on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag. Courtesy the artist and the Contemporary Arts Center.

CINCINNATI, OH.- After the Moment: Reflections on Robert Mapplethorpe is a special exhibition marking the 25th anniversary of the Contemporary Art Center's presentation of the landmark retrospective of Robert Mapplethorpe's photography, The Perfect Moment, and the controversy that surrounded it. After the Moment comprises new work by artists from the region and approximately 11 photographs by Mapplethorpe and some of his contemporaries. A highlight is "Man in Polyester Suit" (1980), Mapplethorpe's photograph of his lover recently auctioned at Sotheby's New York for $478,000.

Famously, on the eve of opening The Perfect Moment to the public in April 1990, CAC and its then-Director Dennis Barrie were charged with "pandering obscenity"-Mapplethorpe's subjects included sadomasochism and homoeroticism. Acquitted by a jury of their peers, the exhibition went on as planned and its presentation set attendance records. First Amendment laws were challenged and the HIV crisis and gay rights movement (Mapplethorpe died of AIDS in 1989) took on added visibility. Light was also cast on the polarizing issue of censorship in the arts, the politics of what is seen and by whom, and the very definition of art and taboos.

On the occasion of the anniversary of this pivotal moment in art history, CAC is examining Mapplethorpe's ongoing influence and the exhibition's legacies through the lens of artists working today. For After the Moment, the CAC selected six curators from Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana to each choose five artists to create new work that measures what Mapplethorpe and the controversy mean for them. They explore how his work, the exhibition, and attempt at censorship shaped the artistic landscape they navigate today and how The Perfect Moment influenced the way art is made, shown, and considered in the current climate.

CAC Director and Chief Curator Raphaela Platow said, "While we could have returned to 1989, and shown work by Mapplethorpe exclusively, we decided to celebrate his legacy and the people of Cincinnati who supported CAC, enabling it to fulfill its mission to provide changing art experiences that challenge, entertain, and educate. Mapplethorpe's photographs have not lost their provocation or punch. With After the Moment, we look forward to continuing this important conversation and bringing new voices to it."

After the Moment also includes historical work by artists such as Sally Mann and Joel-Peter Witkin who felt they could not show their work in Cincinnati in 1990, due to the tumultuous environment surrounding the obscenity trial. Also featured are works selected from an open call to regional artists who could be of any age, experience, or background.

"The Perfect Moment debate did not end in 1990," said CAC Curator Steven Matijcio, "After the Moment sheds a unique and provocative light on what Mapplethorpe means to art-making here today. His work continues to challenge audiences just as the issues The Perfect Moment raised in Cincinnati continue to be debated across the city, country, and world. The censorship of David Wojnarowicz's A Fire in My Belly at the National Portrait Gallery in 2010, the controversy surrounding Chris Ofili's The Holy Virgin Mary at the Brooklyn Museum in 2000, and Tania Bruguera's recent arrest in Cuba are searing evidence of an ongoing trial facing artists and arts organizations everywhere."

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