Man Ray is best remembered as the seminal surrealist photographer who applied and popularized the movement’s ideas. He is best known for his photographs of the inter-war years, in particular, innovative pictures he called Rayographs that were produced without the use of the camera.
However, Man Ray absorbed diverse influences from Surrealism, Cubism, Futurism, and Dada to create art in almost every medium, including painting, sculpture, film, prints and even poetry. He also successfully navigated the world of commercial and fine art, investing his talents enthusiastically in typography, book and magazine design, and pursuing a veritable career as an experimental fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.
Kunstforum will soon host a comprehensive exhibition that will demonstrate the wide breadth of Man Ray’s creativity. Simply titled Man Ray, the exhibition will present a selection of 150 seminal works from all over the world, including painting, photography, objects, works on paper, collages and assemblages and experimental film.
Although he matured as an abstract painter, Man Ray eventually rejected the traditional superiority painting held over photography and started experimenting with this camera-based medium. Despite happily moving between different forms, he always regarded himself first and foremost as a painter.
However, the influences of Dada and Surrealism led him to the notion that the idea motivating a work of art was more important than the work of art itself. For that reason, he explored a myriad of artistic media and techniques in an inventive and playful manner. In his 1963 autobiography, he wrote:
…The instrument did not matter – one could always reconcile the subject with the means and get a result that would be interesting (...) One should be superior to his limited means, use imagination, be inventive.
While Man Ray’s contribution to photography is widely known, only a few people in the German-speaking regions have been aware of the scope of his artistic talents. He operated between two art capitals of the time – Paris and New York, where he alternatively lived. After maturing in the center of American modernism in the 1910s, he made Paris his home in the 1920s and 1930s, only to cross the Atlantic once again and spend time in New York and Hollywood.
The exhibition at Kunstforum will now present Man Ray as a universal artist he has been, critically addressing discourses that mark his oeuvre in general. The show will explore concepts such as the closeness and distance between male and female physicality and creativity and their enactment in his oeuvre, but also show the artist as a prototype of the artistic networker and catalyst, who associated in the most glamorous circles of society.
The exhibition in Vienna will be a rare opportunity to experience the entirety of Man Ray’s enigmatic and complex personality. It will outline his revolutionary contributions to modern and contemporary art and show how he laid the groundwork for how and what we see as “art” today.
Curated by Lisa Ortner-Kreil, the exhibition Man Ray will be on view at Kunstforum in Vienna from February 2nd until June 24th, 2018.
Featured image: Man Ray - The Veil, 1930 (detail); The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows, 1916. Oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of G. David Thompson 1954 © 2017. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala, Florenz © MAN RAY TRUST / Bildrecht, Vien 2017/2018; Tears, 1933 (1958). Gelatin silver print, Museum Abeiberg Mönchengladbach © Photo: Ruth Kaiser © MAN RAY TRUST / Bildrecht, Vien 2017/2018; Noire et blanche, 1926 (1970). Gelatin silver print, Galerie 1900 - 2000, Paris © MAN RAY TRUST / Bildrecht, Vien 2017/2018; L'Enigme d'Isidore Ducasse, 1920/71. The package (sewing machine, wool, rope), Sammlung Marion Meyer, Paris © Xavier Lahache, courtesy Galerie Eva Meyer, Paris © MAN RAY TRUST / Bildrecht, Vien 2017/2018; Left: Le Violin d'Ingres, 1924. Gelatin silver print, courtesy Galerie Johannes Faber © MAN RAY TRUST / Bildrecht, Vien 2017/2018 / Right: Untitled (Rayography), 1923. Gelatin silver print; Museum Ludwig, Cologne © Rheinsches Bildarchiv, Cologne © MAN RAY TRUST / Bildrecht, Vien 2017/2018; Left: Autoportrait, 1937/71. Bronze on plexiglass, Samlung Marion Meyer, Paris © Galerie Eva Meyer © MAN RAY TRUST / Bildrecht, Vien 2017/2018 / Right: Gabrielle Chanel, 1935/36; Gelatin silver print, Museum Ludwig, Cologne © Rheinsches Bildarchiv, Cologne © MAN RAY TRUST / Bildrecht, Vien 2017/2018. All images courtesy of Kunstforum Wien.
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