What Memes Owe to Art History
A clever Man Ray ready-made in which he takes the classic Leonardo self-portrait and sticks the stub of a fat lit cigar into the mouth. (Photographer, painter sculptor and artist Man Ray, a friend and collaborator of Marcel Duchamp, was also deeply influenced by the ready-made philosophy of art.) On the occasion of an exhibition celebrating the 40th anniversary of the SMS Portfolio, the New Museum curators wrote: "The SMS Portfolios were a collaboration between William Copley & Dmitri Petrov which they published through their Letter Edged in Black Press, working with some of the most important artists of the twentieth century. Among the many artists represented are Marcel Duchamp, Roy Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Christo, John Cage, and Yoko Ono. Centered around a loft on Manhattan’s Upper West Side rented and maintained by the American Surrealist William Copley, SMS (an abbreviation for “Shit Must Stop”) was an open-ended collective that epitomized the community ethos of the 1960s. Thoroughly utopian in intent, the six volumes of the SMS portfolio included meticulously editioned works by a roster of artists both world-famous and obscure, each of whom received $100 for their contribution regardless of reputation. Copley sought to produce a new form of art journal that would bypass traditional institutions to distribute the artist's work directly to its audience instead. Copley accepted contributions in almost any medium, carefully reproducing each artwork in his Upper West Side studio. Presented without comment, each portfolio was mailed directly to subscribers every two months. Only six portfolios were produced, in an edition of 2000."
Signature: The work is not signed, but someone, presumably a cataloguer and not the artist, wrote the title of the work in pencil on the verso, (back) along with the artist's name.
Publisher: Letter Edged in Black Press
"The Father of Mona Lisa" came from SMS 3. Other editions of this famous work have been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world over the past four decades.
Born Emmanuel Radnitzky, Man Ray adopted his pseudonym in 1909 and would become one of the key figures of Dada and Surrealism. One of the few American artists associated with these movements, Ray was exposed to European avant-garde artists like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque at Alfred Stieglitz’s New York gallery and at the 1913 Armory Show. Ray’s photographic works are considered his most profound achievement, particularly his portraits, fashion photographs, and technical experiments with the medium, such as solarization and rayographs (an eponym for his photograms), which were celebrated by the Surrealists. “I do not photograph nature,” he once said. “I photograph my visions.” In 1915 he was introduced to Marcel Duchamp, who would become a lifelong friend and influence; he subsequently moved to Paris, practicing there for over 20 years.
American, 1890-1976, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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