This photogravure evidences Marius de Zayas’s chance encounter with an intriguing Polynesian object at The British Museum: a “soul-catcher.” Comprised of a series of six pairs of loops crafted from coconut twine, the portable sculpture seemed to the artist to encapsulate Alfred Stieglitz’s almost uncanny ability to build community. Undeniably, Stieglitz used his publication Camera Work to foster modernist camaraderie and to encourage conceptual innovations through his concrete demonstrations in print. For example, the April 1914 issue of the periodical, displayed here, contained six reproductions of de Zayas’s “absolute” caricatures originally in charcoal (for example, Agnes Meyer, hanging nearby). Caricature generally does not require modeling from life. Thus, de Zayas, like Gertrude Stein, helped to widen the rift that had been steadily growing between portrait subject and physiognomic likeness since the fin de siècle.
Image rights: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Publisher: Published in Camera Work, no. 46, April 1914 (issued October)
"This Is a Portrait If I Say So: Identity in American Art, 1912 to Today"
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
About Marius de Zayas
Mexican, 1880-1961, Veracruz, Mexico