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Roy Cohn

Robert Mapplethorpe, 04 Nov 1946 - 09 Mar 1989
Roy Marcus Cohn, 20 Feb 1927 - Aug 1986
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 40.6 x 50.8cm (16 x 20")
Credit Line
Owner: Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Restrictions & Rights
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission
Object number
Exhibition Label
Robert Mapplethorpe created polished and flattering society portraits, as well as his notorious explorations of male sexuality. Among his portraits, the jarring exception to his glossy images was this likeness of lawyer Roy Cohn. Mapplethorpe's uncanny and frightening image precisely captures Cohn as the dark, malevolent presence who haunted and shadowed American culture, starting with his days as Senator Joseph McCarthy's lead attorney during the Red Scare of the 1950s. Cohn took a near-sadistic relish in using the sexuality of those he investigated against them, intertwining the Red Scare with the Lavender Scare against homosexuals in the government. Mapplethorpe's portrait is a death's-head vision of Cohn as a disembodied, hooded presence who balefully scrutinizes us still. Cohn died of AIDS in 1986.
Data Source
Catalog of American Portraits
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Catalog of American Portraits