by Ann Timmermans
When working on still life, the only subject in perceptual art which can be set out in advance, the artist is fully in control of the composition, so that he or she can entirely focus on colour and hue. However it can be somewhat boring … .
Emmanuel Radnitzky, better known as Man Ray(1890-1976) was a painter, photographer, filmmaker and object artist who created impressive impressions of objects, taking still life and photography to the next level.
After seeing the 1913 Armory show in New York, the artist started painted in a cubist style.( Donna, 1915)
Man Ray’s first solo show of paintings and drawings was held at the Daniel gallery in 1915. He soon involved himself in Dadaism. Founders of the Dada movement Ray and Duchamp published the single issue of New York Dada. Dadaists Arp, Ernst, Picabia, Duchamp and Man Ray intentionally used banality, absurdity and provocation to shake the foundations of society, life and art. Like Duchamp Man Ray made ready-mades. His 1916 paintings( e.g. The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with her Shadows 1916) showed dada and abstract influences, flat forms in vivid colours.
He spent most of his life in Paris, where his commercial fashion and portrait photographs of Parisian celebrities provided him with a steady income.
Many of his fashion photos were published in Harper’s Bazaar, Vu and Vogue.
Man Ray and his assistant Lee Miller perfected the Sabatier or solarisation technique, which he utilized in portraits and nude photographs. His witty negative rayographs, which are photograms made by placing three-dimensional objects directly on or just above photographic paper and exposing the composition to light, were important creative impulses for camera less photography. His rayographs lyrically represent objects as ropes, spoons, pearl necklaces, light bulbs, … They were published in the 1922 portfolio Les Champs délicieux. His first cine-rayographs, sequences of camera less photographic images, were to be seen in his Le Retour à la Raison(1923).
The first surrealist exhibition at the Galerie Pierre in 1925 included works made by André Masson, Jean Arp, Miró, de Chirico, Max Ernst, Picasso and Ray. Man Ray’s anarchical surrealist pieces show a fantasy world of contrasts.
This pioneer of contemporary experimental photography created the Surrealist classic short films Emak-Bakia( 1926), L’étoile de mer(1928) and Les Mystères du Château.
Ray’s autobiography entitled Self Portrait was published in 1963. Ten years later 125 of his photographs were shown at the MET.
This American artist played a prominent role in the launching and portraying of the dada and surrealist movements. No wonder his substantial contributions to modern art, his avant-garde films and object assemblages, influenced Christo and Kienholz.
Written by Ann Timmermans
**About the picture: Man Ray 1923 Gelatin Silver print, 29,4 x 23 cm, copyright Man Ray Trust, ARS NY.