Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Man Ray

oil on canvas
132.1 x 91.4 cm (52 x 36 in.)
Collection of Deborah and Ed Shein, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

In "Legend", Man Ray experiments with illusions of depth and flatness. He suggests the broad patches of color are like the sections of an umbrella, "where one takes off the tip and…turns it around on its curve," rendering three dimensions as two. Man Ray further emphasizes the flat picture plane through the playful inclusion of the title plaque-or legend-at the bottom.

Man Ray (1890 - 1976), born Emmanuel Radnitzky in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, grew up in Brooklyn, New York, was an American Dada and Surrealist artist. He was on the most versatile and inventive artists of this century. He was the master of experimental and fashion photography, and also a painter, filmmaker, poet, essayist, philosopher, and leader of American modernism. Known for documenting the cultural elite living in France, he spent much of his time fighting the formal constraints of the visual arts. His life and art were always provocative, engaging, and challenging. He was a significant contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements. He produced major works in a variety of media but considered himself a painter above all.

He initially taught himself photography in order to reproduce his own works of art, which included paintings and mixed media. He showed evidence of being artistically and mechanically inclined from childhood. After graduating from High School in 1908, he was offered a scholarship to study architecture but chose to pursue a career as an artist instead. In 1911, the Radnitzky family changed their surname to Ray in reaction to the ethnic discrimination and anti-semitism prevalent at that time. Emmanuel, who was called "Manny" as a nickname, thereafter used the single name Man Ray.

While living in New York City, with his friend Marcel Duchamp, he formed the American branch of the Dada movement, which began in Europe as a radical rejection of traditional art. After a few unsuccessful experiments, Man Ray stated, "Dada cannot live in New York", and in 1921 he went to live and work in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris, France during the era of great creativity. There he fell in love with famous French singer, Kiki (Alice Prin), often referred to as "Kiki de Montparnasse", who later became one of his favorite photographic models.

In Paris, he set up a photography studio to support himself. There he began to make photograms and revolutionized the art of photography. Great artists of the day such as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Jean Cocteau posed for his camera. With Jean Arp, Max Ernst, Andre Masson, Joan Miro, and Pablo Picasso, Man Ray was represented in the first Surrealist exhibition at the Gallerie Pierre in Paris in 1925. He invented the photographic technique of solarization. He also created a technique using photograms he called rayographs. He also directed a number of influential avant-garde short films.

Shortly before World War II, he returned to the United States and settled in Los Angeles from 1940 until 1951. However, he was disappointed that he was recognized only for his photography in America and not for the filmmaking, painting, sculpture, and other media in which he worked.
He called Montparnasse home and returned there in 1951. He concentrated primarily on painting until his death in Paris.
Man Ray was interred in the Cimetiere du Montparnasse, Paris. His epitaph reads: Unconcerned, but not indifferent.