8th DMZ Docs(2016)
I AM DOCU
Documentary portrait of Art Collector & Curator Sam Wagstaff, controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and musician Patti Smith.
James Crump’s Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe sheds light on the unusual life of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe(1946-1989), who was both famous and infamous for a serious of lewd photos of the human body, and his lover and photo collector and curator Sam Wagstaff(1921-1987), with the focus of the movie falling on the latter, during the age of sexual liberation of the ‘70s and the AIDS crisis of the ‘80s.
The life and art of Robert Mapplethorpe as a controversial photographer is widely known, but not many people know about Wagstaff who literally created him. Born in a rich, respected family and having graduated from Yale, but then discovered an interest in renaissance art which prompted him to study art history at NYU graduate school. He was the curator and organized several significant exhibits, one of which was Black White + Gray, a 1964 research and investigative program considered the first major art museum exhibit of minimalist art. (The title of the movie is taken from this monumental exhibit.)
While a curator for the Detroit Institute of Arts, Sam Wagstaff became frustrated with the practices of sophisticated art relations and then returned to New York the following year where he met and became partners with Robert Mapplethorpe, a photographer whom nobody knew about, in 1972 and also planned a big shift in his own career. He sold off all the paintings he had collected and began collecting mainly photography while grooming his lover Robert Mapplethorpe to produce the future of photography art that he envisioned. There are those who say it was Sam Wagstaff, Mapplethorpe’s lover and 25 years his senior, that created the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Although this claim is rather overstated, it is evident that they were absolutely necessary to each other. (Interestingly, both of their birthdays fall on November 4th.)
This documentary is a deserving tribute to the lives of Sam Wagstaff, a pioneering photography collector and curator, and his muse Robert Mapplethorpe. The recollections of their close friend and musician Patti Smith add to the sentiments of the movie. It is also a good resource for studying one aspect of New York’s modern art world in the 1970s and the 1980s. [Im Geun-jun a.k.a Lee Chung-woo]
Black White+Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe (2007)
Contribution / World Sales Fortissimo Films
Phone 31 206273215