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54 Kissling Street

The first San Francisco exhibit of works by controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe took place in the 1970s at the 54 Kissling Street studio of Advocate photographer Crawford Barton. Mapplethorpe, who died of AIDS in 1989, developed his creative edge after graduating from art school in 1970. He photographed flowers, himself, and friends such as the musician Patti Smith. It was Mapplethorpe's sexually explicit images including a 1978 self portrait with the handle of a bullwhip in his ass, shots of life in New York's leather bars, and two featuring nude children in non-sexual poses that drew the wrath of conservatives who objected to government funding for Mapplethorpe exhibits in Washington DC and Cincinnati, Ohio in 1989 and 1990. Dennis Barrie, director of the Cincinnati Institute for Contemporary Art, was indicted on charges of pandering obscenity after nine grand jury members attended the opening of the Mapplethorpe exhibit "The Perfect Moment" in April, 1990. In an unusual Sunday hearing on April 8, 1990, U.S. District Judge Carl Rubin issued a restraining order preventing Cincinnati police from removing the photos or preventing the public from seeing the exhibit. Barrie was later acquitted. In the years before Mapplethorpe's death, rich and famous patrons paid the photographer up to $15,000 to be photographed by what some art critics had called Mapplethorpe's "relentless vision."

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Copyright 2004 Hank Donat
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