Tuesday 2 April 2013

Man Ray

Man Ray Portraits

Man Ray, at the National Portrait Gallery.

One of the 20th century's great visual innovators, May Ray was constantly in pursuit of new forms, whether in paint, sculpture, film, rayographs or solarised images. He gave up painting in favour of photography in 1922. 'It was Man Ray's achievement to treat the camera as he treated the paintbrush, a mere instrument at the service of his mind', commented Marcel Duchamp. Angry at photography's lesser status in the view of many followers of contemporary art, Man Ray once said: 'Everyone will tell you that I am not a painter. That is true. At the beginning of my career, I once classed myself as a photometrographer. My works are purely photometric'. Having photographed the majority of the artists amongst whom he moved, Man Ray's portraits have become the definitive images of those individuals. His images are record-keeping, testimony and memorials, and he made modernity visible in the process.

He alligned himself with the Dadaist and Surrealist movements and adopted methods advocated by them even though he never joined officially either of those movements. He was always open to new ideas, even to the happenstance of hasard objectif (objective chance) so that when a blurred exposure multiplied the eyes of Marchesa Casati he recognised the potential of his error:

Marchesa Casati

He liked to say that he could 'produce accidents at will'.

New York, 1916-20

Self-Portrait, 1916

Marcel Duchamp, N.Y., 1916

Marcel Duchamp as Belle Haleine, 1921

Duchant in drag in his persona of Rrose Selavy, this image, a real icon of modernity.

Woman Smoking a Cigarette, 1920

Paris 1921-8

Noire et Blanche, 1926

Kiki de Montparnasse, her white face twinned with an African mask

A different version of Noire et Blanche, 1926

Ernest Hemingway, 1923

James Joyce, 1922

His original use of lighting make the portraits original and unmistakable, as is the case here, James Joyce's tired eyes downcast in deep shadow.

Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein, 1922

Pablo Picasso, 1923

Jacques Rigaut, 1922

Marcel Duchamp and Comte Raoul de Roussy de Salles playing chess in Man Ray's studio, 1925

Jean Cocteau, 1922

Genica Athanasiou, 1921

Peggy Guggenheim in a dress by Paul Poiret, 1924

He sometimes manipulated the light to create luminographs and rayographs (the halo effects of solarisation) to create multiple ripples and reflections as in Peggy Guggenheim's dress in this photograph.

Iris Tree, 1923

Ivor Stravinsky, 1923

Adam and Eve (Marcel Duchamp and Brogna Perlmutter) 1924-5

Tristan Tzara and Jean Cocteau, 1921-22

Louis Aragon and Andre Breton, 1924

Berenice Abbott, 1921

Marie Laurencin, 1923

Le Violon d'Ingres, 1924

Kiki De Monparnasse from the back - a visual pun - an Ingres odalisque incarnate. The f-shaped scrolls traced on her torso turn her into a violin, and the work's title refers to the painter's love of the instrument.

Helene Perdriat, 1925

Self-Portrait, 1924

Serge Lifar as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, 1925

Barbette, 1926

Rose Wheeler, 1926

Rose Covarrubias, 1928

Henri Matisse, 1925

Nancy Cunard, 1926

Nancy Cunard laden with bangles

Henry Crowder, 1928-30

Henry Crowder with Nancy Cunard's bracelet laden arms around his head.

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