Black White + Gray  {Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe}
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Black White + Gray
Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe

USA, 2007, 77 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: AIDS / HIV, Arts & Literature, Biography / History, Documentary, Gay
Program: Documentary
Language: English

DIRECTOR: James Crump

Black White + Gray examines the symbiotic relationship between influential curator and collector Sam Wagstaff and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in New York during the heady years of the ’70s and ’80s. The film peers intensively into Mapplethorpe’s love affair with Wagstaff and his rapid ascendancy in the art world with Wagstaff’s forceful patronage and guidance. At the time their romance began, Mapplethorpe was 26 years old
— 25 years younger than Wagstaff — though they shared the same birth date (November 4), an uncanny characteristic of this duo of near polar opposites. The film explores the strong bond of friendship both men had with punk rocker Patti Smith during this period, which was also marked by Smith’s 1975 debut album “Horses,” her first recording triumph. While Smith and Mapplethorpe edged toward notoriety and infamy, Wagstaff’s story is one of personal transformation — from conservative, starchy, Yale-educated preppy to downtown habitué, hipster and experimenter.
Wagstaff and Mapplethorpe enabled one another to discover different parts of themselves, each encouraging the other to mine new territory in the arts — and in their personal lives. Wagstaff’s death from AIDS in 1987 — and Mapplethorpe’s in 1989 — marked the end of an era. Black White + Gray reveals the powerful troika these two men formed with Patti Smith and the influence their collective work continues to have over present-day art and culture.


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