Man Ray, American (1890 - 1976)

[born: 1890, philadelphia, us]
[died: 1976, paris, fr]

Man Ray (a pseudonym adopted by the artist) Emmanuel Radnitzky was born on August 27, 1890, in Philadelphia, and moved to New York with his family seven years later. In New York he frequented Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery “291” in 1911 and attended classes at the Ferrer Center in 1912. In 1915 his first solo show was held at the Daniel Gallery, New York. About this time he took up photography, the medium for which he was to become best known. He entered into a lifelong friendship with Marcel Duchamp, with whom he and Walter Arensberg founded the Society of Independent Artists in 1916. With Duchamp, Katherine Dreier, Henry Hudson, and Andrew McLaren, Man Ray established the Société Anonyme, which he named, in 1920. Before the artist moved from New York to Paris in 1921, Man Ray and Duchamp published the single issue of New York Dada.

In Paris Man Ray was given a solo exhibition at the Librairie Six in 1921. His first Rayographs (photographic images produced without a camera) were published in Les Champs délicieux, rayographies in 1922, the year the artist participated in the Salon Dada at the Galerie Montaigne in Paris. With Jean Arp, Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, André Masson, Joan Miró, and Pablo Picasso, he was represented in the first Surrealist exhibition at the Galerie Pierre in Paris in 1925. From 1923 to 1929 he made the films Le Retour à la raison, Emak Bakia, L’Etoile de mer, and Les Mystères du château de dé. In 1932 Man Ray’s work was included in Dada, 1916–1932 at the Galerie de l’Institut in Paris and in a Surrealist show at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. He collaborated with Paul Eluard on the books Facile in 1935 and Les Mains libres in 1937. In 1936 he went to New York on the occasion of the Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, in which his work appeared.

The artist left France in 1940, shortly before the German occupation, making his way to Hollywood and then to New York. In 1951 he returned to Paris, where he was given a solo show at the Galerie Berggruen. In 1959 a solo exhibition of Man Ray’s work was held at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London. His autobiography Self Portrait was published in 1963. Ten years later the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York presented 125 of his photographic works. Man Ray died on November 18, 1976, in Paris.

MAN RAY & SURREALISM

By 1925 Dadaism was on the decline as Surrealism was coming to the forefront of the art world. In the Manifeste du Surrealisme of 1924, the French poet Andre Breton defined Surrealism as the joining of the subconscious with the conscious realms of reality. In an effort to explore how this philosophy applied to human nature and sexuality, many Surrealists began to incorporate the writings of the 18th century aristocrat, the Marquis de Sade into their work.
Man Ray embraced the ideals of the Surrealists and admired the Marquis de Sade for his independence and willingness to explore the taboo despite the consequences. (The Marquis was considered a literary revolutionary of his time, imprisoned for publishing his obsessive sexual exploits involving women.) These writings gave Man Ray even more inspiration in his quest to explore eroticism and female imagery.

Man Ray sought to create a Surrealist vision of the female form and began to utilize such photographic techniques as solarization, dynamic cropping, over enlargement and over development in an effort to create a dreamlike effect in his artwork. His use of the Rayograph helped him to create a new, profound look to his photography, stressing the importance of light and shadow rather than the object itself. These camera-less images created by placing objects on light sensitive photographic paper and then exposing the paper to light assisted Man Ray in the creation of his visual poetry.

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