It’s been 25 years since the Contemporary Arts Center ignited a national debate over artistic freedom and censorship with Robert Mapplethorpe’s The Perfect Moment. The artist’s works and influence, however, remain vital, as evidenced by a new anniversary exhibit, After the Moment: Reflections on Robert Mapplethorpe, which presents works by 35 contemporary artists, including some who witnessed the protests and obscenity charges brought against then–CAC director Dennis Barrie.
“We were interested in how that exhibit lives inside people’s heads and hearts and starts to affect how they’re making art today,” says co-curator Steven Matijcio. While After the Moment considers Mapplethorpe’s larger body of work, it highlights the Midwestern reactions to the show that got Barrie indicted, along with ramifications for what artists can show today. It’s a debate that’s far from over, Matijcio points out; Andres Serrano, who has drawn the ire of religious conservatives for decades, still invokes their wrath when his controversial photos are exhibited.
“We need to fight these good fights,” he says. “There are certain works that capture the zeitgeist and continue to resonate and arouse intensity on both sides. And that’s what good art should do.”
After The Moment: Reflections on Robert Mapplethorpe, opens Nov 6 at the CAC, contemporaryartscenter.org