Man Ray, born Emmanuel Radnitzky in 1890 in Philadelphia, produced his first significant photographs in 1918. He was living in New York, and with his close friend Marcel Duchamp, formed the American branch of the Dada movement, which began in Europe as a radical rejection of traditional art. After a few unsuccessful experiments, and notably after the publication of a unique issue of New York Dada in 1920, Man Ray stated that “Dada cannot live in New York,” and in 1921 followed Duchamp to live in Paris. It was there, for the next twenty years, that Man Ray revolutionized the art of photography.

 

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from Champs Delicieux , 1922 Rayograph from a photograph album with a preface by Tristan Tzara.
Centre Georges Pompidou, Musee national d'art moderne, Paris © 1998 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society, NY/ADAGP, Paris
Marcel Duchamp, Bonds for Monte-Carlo roulette, 1924  Centre Georges Pompidou, Musee national d'art moderne, Paris  © 1998 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society, NY/ADAGP, Paris

He did this first by reinventing several techniques—like the rayograph in 1922 and solarization in 1929—and then by pursuing a very different path from his fellow photographers. While straight photography in the United States and the “new photography” in Europe boasted skilled technique, Man Ray concealed his interest in craftsmanship and invented a surrealist photography. For almost five years he acted as photographic Surrealism’s first and only representative. He was also part of the photographic “avant-garde”, publishing his pictures in the popular press (for example, the weekly Vu) as well as more specialized magazines (including Les Feuilles Libres, Littérature, and Minotaure).

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Le Violon d'Ingres, 1924            Centre Georges Pompidou, Musee national d'art moderne, Paris          © 1998 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society, NY/ADAGP. Paris Lee Miller, c. 1930 Centre Georges Pompidou, Musee national d'art moderne, Paris © 1998 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society, NY/ADAGP. Paris

The first biography about Man Ray was written in 1930 by Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes and in 1934, James Thrall Soby published Man Ray Photographs, 1920–Paris 1934, the first “retrospective” of the artist’s oeuvre. He was given several exhibitions and reached the height of fame in the mid-1930s, especially due to the appearance of his photographs in Harper’s Bazaar. As one of the magazine’s principal photographers, Man Ray’s work was soon recognized by the general public.

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Meret Oppenheim, 1933 Centre Georges Pompidou, Musee national d'art moderne, Paris  © 1998 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society, NY/ADAGP, Paris Composition, 1936 Centre Georges Pompidou, Musee national d'art moderne, Paris  © 1998 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society, NY/ADAGP, Paris

This exhibition, organized by the Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris, is drawn from the Man Ray archives donated to its collections in 1994. The archive’s 13,500 negatives and more than 5,000 contact prints encourage a new understanding of the artist’s work. Original contact prints are to a photographer what sketches are to a painter: both permit art historians and the public to study the artist’s working methods. Similarly, the negatives—some of which have been specially printed so they could be compared to the vintage prints (they were printed as contacts, and therefore without interpretation)—point to the photographer’s work of printing. Man Ray, who liked to present the image of himself as a dilettante, let us believe that his photographs were the result of chance. This presentation of his work proves that they were rather the product of careful reflection and diligent labor.  la_femme.gif (36327 bytes)
La femme, 1920
Centre Georges Pompidou, Musee national d'art moderne, Paris  © 1998 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society, NY/ADAGP, Paris

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Objet Mathematique [Mathematical object], 1934-36 Centre Georges Pompidou, Musee national d'art moderne, Paris © 1998 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society, NY/ADAGP, Paris
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At ICP November 18, 1998 to
January 24, 1999

Exhibition catalogue available

Albert Giacometti, c. 1932 Centre Georges Pompidou, Musee national d'art moderne, Paris © 1998 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society, NY/ADAGP, Paris

All English texts in this exhibition were translated by Molly Stevens.

© 1998, International Center of Photography
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