Gagosian is pleased to announce worldwide representation of the Man Ray Trust. The announcement is marked with a special presentation at Frieze Masters of Man Ray’s work, including paintings, objects, lithographs, “rayographs,” and photographs, some of which will be exhibited for the first time.
A central figure of Dada and Surrealism, Man Ray produced a body of work that exemplifies the interconnected map of the early twentieth-century avant-garde. Although he began as a painter, he valorized photography and moved fluidly between media, often making several iterations of a work by photographing, disassembling, or remaking it—reproduction being crucial to his concept of the art object. Today, the Man Ray Trust holds a great range of works spanning Man Ray’s prolific career.
In 1921, Man Ray moved from New York to Paris and set up a photography studio in Montparnasse. The studio became a hub of collaboration with poets, philosophers, and artists, among them Lee Miller, Max Ernst, and André Masson. Marcel Duchamp, a friend and colleague of Man Ray, supplied the opening epigram for Man Ray’s memoir Self-Portrait (1963), in the form of a dictionary entry defining “Man Ray” as a synonym of “play”: Man Ray, n. masc., synom. de Joie, jouer, jouir. In fact, many of the objects Man Ray created gestured toward some kind of game. In Permanent Attraction (c. 1970), on view at Frieze Masters, three oversize chess pieces are permanently affixed to a chessboard—hinting at psychosexual undertones as much as to strategy.
Obstruction (1920/64), an unique assemblage of sixty-five wooden coat hangers that dangle over a suitcase, mimics a chandelier but, as the hangers seem to divide and multiply when viewed at different angles, the initial simplicity of the work evolves into a dense kinetic tangle. Man Ray first created Obstruction in 1920, and subsequently made reproductions, several of which reside in major museum collections worldwide. Man Ray’s paintings and photographs possess a similar irreverence: The Tortoise (1944), for example, is an oil-on-canvas work that suggests the form of the animal rather than depicting it.
L’Enigme d’Isidore Ducasse (1920/71) consists of a sewing machine wrapped in a blanket and tied with string, making the bulky object unidentifiable. Its presence, however, echoes a simile used by the nineteenth-century writer Isidore Ducasse: “Beautiful as the accidental encounter, on a dissecting table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella.” This description became a symbolic inspiration for Surrealism, charged with incongruity, convulsive beauty, and sexual innuendo. Man Ray’s wrapped object, however, remains a mystery, suggesting not so much a household appliance as some undefined and potentially more disturbing presence.
Indestructible Object (1923/75) is an assemblage comprising a metronome, a photograph, and a paper clip. The work was first intended as a silent witness in Ray’s studio, watching him paint, with a photograph of an eye clipped to the metronome’s swinging arm. In the second version of 1933, he used an image of the eye of Lee Miller, his former lover, after she left him. This version was accompanied by the following instructions: “Cut out the eye from a photograph of one who has been loved but is seen no more. Attach the eye to the pendulum of a metronome and regulate the weight to suit the tempo desired. Keep doing to the limit of endurance. With a hammer well-aimed, try to destroy the whole at a single blow.” At an exhibition in 1957, a group of students followed the instructions and destroyed the object. It was later reconstructed as a multiple using the money received from the insurance, at which point—1958—Man Ray renamed the work Indestructible Object.
Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) was born in Philadelphia in 1890, and died in Paris in 1976. He participated in historic group shows such as the first exhibition of The Society of Independent Artists, Grand Central Palace, New York (1917); the first exhibition of the Société Anonyme, New York (1920); Salon Dada, Exposition Internationale, Galerie Montaigne, Paris (1921); the first international Surrealist exhibition, Galerie Pierre, Paris (1925); and Cubism and Abstract Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York (1936). Solo exhibitions include Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (1971, traveled to Musée national d’art moderne, Paris, and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark, in 1972); Centre Pompidou, Paris (1981); Perpetual Motif: The Art of Man Ray, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC (1988, traveled to Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Menil Collection, Houston; and Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1989); A Practical Dreamer: The Photographs of Man Ray, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (1998); Man Ray: Photography and Its Double, Centre Pompidou, Paris (1998, traveled extensively 1998–99); Unconcerned But Not Indifferent, Museo Colecciones ICO, Madrid (2007, traveled extensively 2007–10); and Man Ray, African Art, and the Modernist Lens, Phillips Collection, Washington DC (2009, traveled extensively 2009–11).
Since its founding in 1976 by the artist’s wife, Juliet Man Ray (1911–1991), the Man Ray Trust has loaned works from its collection to exhibitions worldwide. Following Juliet Man Ray’s death, a significant number of works, including much of the artist’s photographic archives, were donated to the French government. This collection is held at the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
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