Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe
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Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe
After serving in the Navy during World War II, Sam Wagstaff came home to New York City and pursued a career in advertising, and through his work in the ad game he developed a keen interest in photography. Reflecting his own personal evolution as he came to accept his homosexuality, Wagstaff became an enthusiastic collector of art photography and gained a reputation as a curator, organizing a number of important museum shows of new photographers and becoming a friend and confidante of artists such as Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Richard Tuttle, and Tony Smith. In the early '70s, Wagstaff met… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"Crump's film colourfully depicts Wagstaff's complex inner mindset and rarefied eye for imagery by allowing the stunning prints to linger on the screen."
‑ David Jenkins, Time Out
"Wagstaff was a fascinating figure and deserves the detailed tribute provided here."
‑ Jack Mathews, New York Daily News
"Crump's film is a vitally important document in this respect, bringing out Wagstaff's personality and vividly capturing the stories of the people who knew him."
‑ Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
"Let's hope this is the springboard for a biopic on the art world's dynamic gay duo - maybe by the time it gets made we'll even have some openly gay actors to play the parts."
‑ Richard Knight, Windy City Times
"The film itself is staid in comparison to the descriptions of the '70s high life."
‑ Kent Turner,
"The movie makes its main point. Wagstaff was an important, complex, fascinating figure, well worth remembering."
‑ Sid Smith, Chicago Tribune
"A potent exercise in art-world mythography."
‑ Stephen Holden, New York Times
"This is a terrific documentary by James Crump about the unsung collector, Wagstaff, and his lopsided relationship with his hungry young lover, Mapplethorpe."
‑ James Christopher, Times [UK]
"This ham-handed interpolation of irrelevant footage is the chief demerit of his movie."
‑ David Noh, Film Journal International
"Draws out the unseen riches that exist within what may otherwise appear typical or commonplace."
‑ Rob Humanick, Slant Magazine
"Wagstaff's character accounts for some of the frustration the film induces. Crumb's documentary style accounts for the rest."
‑ Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle
"Black White & Gray raises provocative questions but can't answer them, or even frame them with total clarity."
‑ Andrew O'Hehir,
"A well made portrait of an intriguing man, presented with a tragic but resounding weight."
‑ Sam Jordison, Film4
"The more famous Mapplethorpe is moved aside to give Sam Wagstaff the spotlight. But the best photography in the world steals the show."
‑ Ron Wilkinson, Monsters and Critics
"Relatively tame retrospective about the relationship of a gay patron of the arts and his famous photographer lover best remembered for graphic, homoerotic snapshots featuring shocking sights like that of a bullwhip in a tight place."
‑ Kam Williams, NewsBlaze