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PRINT May 1997

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Robert Mapplethorpe for Helmut Lang

I HAVE BEEN TRYING to remember what kind of jeans Robert Mapplethorpe wore and if they were really tight and tidy or kind of droopy and in need of a wash. Easy to picture him in black leather pants or chaps, harder to remember him in blue jeans. Roland Barthes was fond of Mapplethorpe’s 1976 portrait of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson in which they both wear jeans, Glass’ pair comfortably faded, Wilson’s darker and newer. In Camera Lucida, Barthes wrote: “The photograph touches me if I withdraw it from its usual blah-blah: ‘Technique,’ ‘Reality,’ ‘Reportage,’ ‘Art,’ etc.: to say nothing, to shut my eyes, to allow the detail to rise of its own accord into affective consciousness.” Mapplethorpe certainly never wore Helmut Lang jeans, but for the new line’s ad campaign, Lang has withdrawn several of Mapplethorpe’s photographs from their usual blah-blah. What rises of its own accord is a young

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