Photographer Javier Porto’s career began as a street photographer in Madrid during the late-70s at the pivotal point of cultural change following the death of dictator Francisco Franco. “The Movement” or “La Movida Madrileña” as it was known, saw the rigid social structures that had been implemented previously crumble and as a result of economic growth, exposed many in urban areas to the excesses of pornography, drugs and prostitution. These years of cultural debauchery are reflected in the photographer’s early work, a time during which, he also visited the Fernando Vijande Gallery where a chance encounter with Robert Mapplethorpe would change the course of his career.
In 1984, Porto moved across the Atlantic to New York and became Mapplethorpe’s assistant. In contrast to Madrid, New York was experiencing an economic slump, the results of which led to a similar environment that New York had a few years earlier, drawing distinct parallels between the two cities. Immersing himself in the New York art scene, Porto was surrounded by Mapplethorpe’s friends and acquaintances – a group consisting of musicians, artists, porn stars and filmmakers – who became the focal point of his work, reflecting both his experiences working alongside the famed image-maker and the influence he had on him.
In his latest exhibition, Porto takes us on his journey from the cultural revolutions of post-Franco Spain to his exploration of New York City during the 80s. Bridging the distance between them, the photographer temporarily closed the cultural gap by filling it with his off-the-hip portraits of Grace Jones, Andy Warhol and other veterans of each city’s now-infamous party scenes.