Robert Mapplethorpe’s Ken and Lydia and Tyler was constructed in 1985 (artnet). This work is a photograph that implements a realist style. The work is 15 inches by 15 inches. The work features three individuals. Specifically these individuals are recognized as two male models, one being an African American, and then a female model. The racial and gender divide in this work constitutes a significant aspect, as these varying backgrounds invite meditations on the subject. One perspective has held that, “Mapplethorpe chose a range of skin tones from light to dark in order to invite new, non-binary interpretations of gender, race and sexual orientation” (Adamek). In this way one considers the formal qualities of the work wherein the skin colors move from in differing gradients from left to right. The three individuals in the work assume classical conventions and there is a clear appreciation of the human form. Additionally, Mapplethorpe situates these individuals in a shape that exemplifies a sort of cyclicality, as the arms are intertwined, potentially forming a heart in the middle.
Mapplethorpe’s work Holly Solomon features the actual individual Holly Solomon resting on a bed smoking a cigarette. This is a photograph that implements a realist style. The photograph is 27 inches by 34 inches. This work was created in 1976. Holly Solomon the person was an individual highly important to Mapplethorpe as she directly aided his art in gaining recognition (Morrisroe, p. 170). While Ken and Lydia and Tyler is directly influenced by classical techniques, this work is seemingly rooted in a distinctly contemporary framework through a realistic style. The formal qualities include strong light and dark imagery, with the dark background contrasting sharply with the woman’s white clothing. In this way one considers that the woman in the image revels in a sense of her own self-conscious theatricality.