Cinema Q: Black White + Gray
USA, 2007, 76 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Art, Documentary, GLBT, Social Issues
Sam Wagstaff: Yale-educated ad man. Innovative museum curator and art collector. Lover and patron of the notorious Robert Mapplethorpe. In Black White + Gray, art historian James Crump carefully documents Wagstaff’s transformation from starchy hobnobber to downtown habitué as he illustrates the truly symbiotic relationship his subjects shared – as prone to personal experiment as they were to artistic innovation.
Tracing the trajectory Wagstaff made across the heady backdrop that was the New York City art scene of the 1970s, the documentary details his mentorial influence on the much younger Mapplethorpe: it was Wagstaff who pulled him out of suburban Queens, gave him a camera and helped shape the still-startling aesthetic that catapulted him into fame. But it also explores his introduction by Mapplethorpe, in turn, to Manhattan’s gay/S&M demimonde and to its underground drug culture. Throughout it all, the chameleonic Wagstaff was amassing a collection of photographic masterworks that would eventually sell to the J. Paul Getty Museum for millions and earn him the label of “visionary” – even as he and Mapplethorpe cultivated the bad-boy personae that united them until their deaths from AIDS in the late 1980s.
Integral to the dual portrait that emerges are Crump’s in-depth interviews not only with art scholars but with major players of the era – from Vanity Fair columnist Dominick Dunne to punk priestess Patti Smith, Mapplethorpe’s close friend and muse; narration by Vogue critic Joan Juliet Buck; and, of course, stunning never-before-seen photographs of the couple.
Sponsored by Meininger Art Supply
DIRECTOR: James Crump
Producer: James Crump
Screenwriter: James Crump
Principal Cast: Joan Juliet Buck, Robert Mapplethorpe, Sam Wagstaff, Patti Smith