Man Ray in Paris

Oscar Niemeyer Museum

By Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Photography

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

As the first Man Ray retrospective in Brazil, this exhibition seeks to encompass his immense and multiform work. Famous mainly for his photographs, Man Ray was also a creator of objects, a film director, and a jack-of-all-trades genius. He arrives in Paris in July 1921, where he remains until the Second World War, returning to this city permanently in 1951. It was there that his original art developed and bore the greatest repercussion. After rapidly becoming a professional photographer, he continuously oscillates between work to order (portraits, fashion), on the one hand, and his desire to create “artistic work”, on the other. A member of the Dada group since his first pieces in New York, and, then, a central figure in Surrealism, Man Ray manifested, throughout his life, an engaged dilettante’s attitude, cultivating chance as a vivacious and passionate means, so as to hide the tasked part of his work. In his words, “the artist is a privileged being, able to rid himself of all social restrictions,  whose aim should be reaching liberty and pleasure”. This exhibition, by means of almost 250 works and, especially, thanks to the original contacts, enlightens the slow maturation of Man Ray’s work, and presents a complete outlook of his creativity. From his first Dada works to portraits and landscapes, from fashion to Surrealist images, from his commercial works to a selection of his objects and films, and to his wish to reveal another reality, this show brings together all the complexity and richness of what he has bequeathed us. [Emmanuelle de l'Ecotais | Curator]

The Marquise Casati, “the Empress of Austria Ramping her Horses Flick and Flock”, at the Ball of the Famous Paintings, Hosted by the Count Étienne de Beaumont, in Paris. (1935) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

The Art of Portrait

Since his first trials with photographs, in 1915, Man Ray dedicates himself to portraits. Incidentally, according to his biographer Neil Baldwin, it seems that he had nurtured a true passion for this theme as soon as he was old enough to visit museums. “Before the portraits, Emmanuel never had enough. He wished to understand the effects of light and color on the outlines of the human face.” This passion is expressed in a crystal-clear manner, throughout the breadth of his work, with portraits comprising half of his artistic production.Upon his arrival in Paris, in 1921, Man Ray, being short of cash, starts photographing his painter friends’ works as a way to earn his living. He says that he always kept a plate to take a portrait (not ordered) at the end of each session. Little by little, the entire Parisian vanguard parades before Man Ray’s camera: Picasso, Braque, Gris ... as well as the French capital’s resident aristocracy (count Étienne de Beaumont, marchioness Casati). His first portraits were made in this manner, without technical resources, in daylight. In December, 1921, he sets up an actual studio, with an armchair, a screen, and lights. He also goes to people’s homes to picture them in their ambience. In six months, he attains great success, which leads him to renting a studio on rue Campagne-Première. His work technique improves, but nevertheless remains simple: he positions himself three meters from the model, “too far..., to reach an absolutely perfect design, upon which Mr. Ingres himself would place no flaw”. Then, Man Ray reframes the image on the contact, retouches it in the negative and enlarges it in printing, achieving slightly out-of-focus features and actual softness in the portrait.The portrait was then deemed a minor art. The quest for  likeness– a priori inherent to portraits –decreased the artist’s status since  the emergence of photography: copying is not making art. With the development of the photographic studios in the 19th century and the democratization of the portrait this brings forth, the portrait genre ceased to be considered by the painters. Consequently, photographers, especially portraitists, were seen as failed painters. Man Ray’s talent in this context entailed making use of techniques which left an imprint on his time and photography, to the extent of bestowing great notoriety onto the portrait genre: superimposition and, mainly, solarization catalyzed this evolution. Solarization, technically defined as “the partial inversion of values  in a photograph,” accompanied by a characteristic lining, was since then considered a lab accident, known by the name of “Sabatier effect” is. It can be made during the making of a print in the positive or on the negative, but Man Ray did it essentially on the negative, which allowed him to later work this image as another one, especially when reframing it on  the contact. It is solarization, with its characteristic lining, which bestows Man Ray’s models an extraordinary, almost-unreal aura, as well as brings photography closer to Ingres’ drawing. This technique ensures success to Man Ray’s portrait studio in the 1930’s.

The Marquise Cassati, Man Ray, 1922, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Lee Miller, Man Ray, 1929, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Lee Miller (1929) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

“Only sculpture would give account of the beauty of her shapely lips, of her big, pale, and languid eyes, and of her neck, similar to a column”, writes Cecil Beaton in Vogue, in 1960

Dora Maar, Man Ray, 1936, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Dora Maar, Man Ray, 1936, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Pablo Picasso at the Count Étienne de Beaumont’s Ball (1924) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Tanya Ramm, Man Ray, 1929, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Yves Tanguy, Man Ray, 1928, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Yves Tanguy, Man Ray, 1928, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Tristan Tzara and Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, 1922, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Nancy Cunard (1926) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Le Corbusier, Man Ray, 1925, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Self-Portrait (1930) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Elsa Schiaparelli (c. 1930) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Fashion

Two  periods are distinct in Man Ray’s work regarding fashion, related to the two magazines with which he regularly collaborates: Vogue, from 1924 to 1930, and Harper’s Bazaar, from 1935 to 1944. It is through his activity as a portraitist that Man Ray progressively turns to fashion: at that time, there were in fact few professional  models and, in general, the newspapers used elegant people’s clothes as examples. The masked balls held in Paris in the “Crazy Years” equally offered fashion designers the chance to exhibit their talents. Man Ray starts to produce fashion images at the end of 1924, especially for Paul Poiret. In the following year, the Pavillion of Elegance is his first important order for Vogue. The artificial mannequins of the time allow him, for the first time, to reconcile his principles of originality with commercial restrictions, signaling his belonging to the artistic vanguard he claimed for himself. As from 1934, after Alexey Brodovitch took over Harper’s Bazaar artistic direction, he systematically applies such principles, imposing himself, for a number of years, as a must fashion photographer, whose images follow the female body’s liberation. Openly adept to experimenting, Man Ray invents an entirely new style and uses, in the case of the models photographed by him, all means at his disposal, which he masters to perfection: lighting, which underlines the quality of the materials (draping, transparency), framing, solarization, superimposition, distortion, close-up, overexposure and the opposition between negative and positive allow him to produce incredibly fascinating photographs which irresistibly draw the eye and are at the basis of his success. Henceforth, Man Ray is able to live very comfortably (he has two studios in Paris and a secondary house), and Harper’s Bazaar, a  glossy magazine with a large press run, ensures him great visibility and international recognition.

For Harper’s Bazaar, Man Ray, 1936, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Coco Chanel, Man Ray, 1928, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Louiseboulanger, for Harpers’Bazaar, Man Ray, 1936, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Noire et Blanche (1926) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

The photograph “Black and White” refers to two masks: one black, of African origin, and another represented by the pale face of the model Kiki de Montparnasse. It is an example of artistic photography produced by Man Ray, which draws attention to African art. Used to the puns and games of Dada, the photographer also plays with the image and the title, because the image is "read" as "white and black", but the title is "black and white". The photograph first appeared in Vogue magazine, named Nacre's Face and Ebony Mask. In 1928 it was published in the magazine Variétés, with the current title.

Nusch with Mirror, Man Ray, 1935, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Nusch with Mirror, Man Ray, 1935, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Nusch with Mirror, Man Ray, 1935, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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The Pavillion of Elegance (1925) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Among Man Ray’s first important accomplishments in the fashion field, it is necessary to highlight that which promoted his success and his international reputation: in July, 1925, the Pavillion of Elegance is inaugurated at the International Decorative Art Exhibition. This exhibition was organized by Lucien Vogel, who had asked André Vigneau, connected to the Maison Siegel, to create wood and wax mannequins, “depicting, in each of her preferred positions, the modern woman. These images were published by the three Vogue editions (the French, the Bristish, and the American), as well as on the cover of La Révolution Surréaliste, on July, 15th, 1925.

(Fashion) (c. 1930) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Coat Stand (1920) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Dada / Surrealism

In Zurich, in 1916, in a neutral country amid a devastated Europe, a small group of young artists rebels against the widespread massacre and creates the Dada movement. Joined by the wish of making tabula rasa of what structured modern society – its social organization, its values (such as religion, culture, art), its usages and customs –, they set up their own government, publish magazines, pitch themselves for and against all, and, mainly, cause scandal. Dada designates, therefore, an insolent, ironic, and combative, essentially anti-artistic trend, identified in Man Ray since 1915, and to which he adheres throughout his life. Together with Marcel Duchamp, then exiled in New York, he decides to step away from the classic pictorial techniques, first with collage and aerography, and later with photography. Together they invent, in 1920, a new identity for Marcel Duchamp, his feminine double: made up, dressed as a woman before Man Ray’s lenses, Duchamp becomes Rrose Sélavy (which is pronounced “Eros, this is life”). Dust Breeding also results from their collaboration, and several photographs from that time are impressions from the logic of Duchamp's ready-mades (Integration of Shadows, Lampshade,etc.). In April 1921, they publish the sole issue of the New York Dada magazine; however, as Man Ray would write Tristan Tzara a few years later, “Dada cannot live in New York”. In the following summer, Marcel Duchamp entices Man Ray to Paris. Officially born in 1924, through André Breton’s initiative, Surrealism reached its peak in a legendary exhibition held by Marcel Duchamp in 1938: the International Surrealism Exhibition. Man Ray was the first photographer close to the Surrealist movement, and the only one in this position until 1928, to the point of his being incontestably proclaimed  as the inventor of Surrealist photography.The wish to have an “automatic” realization of the art presides over André Breton’s thinking. Photography, as instantaneous form of creation, becomes the ideal medium in face of painting, which needs a time for gestation, letting reasoning obstruct direct access to the unconscious. Man Ray, apart from his daily “commercial” work, endeavors to breach the limits of traditional photography. His photographic “kitchen”, his manipulations, lead him to (re)discoveries, such as rayography, at the end of 1921, superimposition, in 1922, and solarization, in 1929, which allow photography to radically stand apart from reality.These techniques were immediately successful and spread like  a gunpowder trail. Man Ray published his works in several the Dada movement and Surrealism magazines (Littérature, Mécano, Merz, La Révolution Surréaliste, Le Surréalisme au service de la Révolution, Minotaure etc.), thus becoming the American artist of the greatest renown in Paris, in the interwar years.

Ingres’s Violin (1924) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

“Ingres' Violin” shows the back of the model Kiki de Montparnasse (1901-1953), in a position that refers to paintings by Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingrés (1780 - 1867), a painter who was also a music lover; for this reason, Man Ray deepened the reference by painting with ink the two efes or acoustic openings of the violin on Kiki's back (on the photograph).

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Veiled Erotica, Man Ray, 1933, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Veiled Erotica, Man Ray, 1933, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Kiki in Mechanical Ballet, by Fernand Léger (1924) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Dust Breeding, Man Ray, 1920, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Dust Breeding (detail), Man Ray, 1920, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Lee Miller in Jean Cocteau’s film, The Blood of a Poet (1932) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Integration of Shadows, Man Ray, 1919, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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The International Surrealist Exhibition, André Masson’s Mannequin, Man Ray, 1938, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Long Hair, Man Ray, 1929, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Glass Tears (1932) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

After photographing the eyes of the model Lydia and framing them in different ways, Man Ray, still with the Dada spirit, decided to put glass tears on his face. Arlette Bernard, director of beauty institutes in Paris, took advantage of photography, using it as an advertisement for her new mascara that allowed Madame “to cry at the cinema, cry at the theater, laugh to tears without fear of undoing her beautiful eyes ”

Glass Tears (1932) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

After photographing the eyes of the model Lydia and framing them in different ways, Man Ray, still with the Dada spirit, decided to put glass tears on his face. Arlette Bernard, director of beauty institutes in Paris, took advantage of photography, using it as an advertisement for her new mascara that allowed Madame “to cry at the cinema, cry at the theater, laugh to tears without fear of undoing her beautiful eyes ”

Love Fingers of Main Ray (sic), the line, the color, the form, the space, the air (1959) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Rayographs

In 1922, Man Ray publishes a precious album called The Delicious Fields, containing the reproduction of 12 plates of a “new procedure”, he named rayograph. What one calls, in general, a “photogram” or “rayograph” comprises a procedure which consists in placing objects directly onto sensitive paper and exposing these to light for a few seconds. Then, when normally developing the paper, one obtains an image which values are inverted. Man Ray said that he discovered this procedure by chance, when developing fashion photos for Paul Poiret. Everything, however, leads to the assumption that he was especially inspired on Christian Schad’s research geared to the creation of a new way of expression. Schad was part of Zurich’s Dada group and made, according to the same principle, what he called “schadographs”. These were made in the daylight on a less sensitive directly darkening paper. Man Ray improved the technique by working in a darkroom: only after it had been developed and fixed that rayograph could be observed. The main reason of this choice resided on the possibility of changing the intensity and direction of light.Man Ray used all types of three-dimensional objects, sometimes of glass, with which the translucent feature and the shadows reached allowed for achieving different degrees of gray.Man Ray’s  lab experiments reveal concern in expressing, in  a “sensitive” manner, the life of objects, their independence,  theircapacity to mean another thing different from that they have had been manufactured for. It deals with bestowing a new appearance on them. These objects placed on sensitive paper are frequently recognizable, while they remain, at the same time, transformed, transported to an extraordinary world, this being the dialectics between the known and the unknown which allows for opening one’s spirit for another reality. The rayographs were the first photographic impressions to achieve, before the public, a value equivalent to that of art. They proved that photography, contrary to ready-made ideas, was not only reproductive, documentary, but also creative, inventive, and that it could generate images born from the artist’s imagination, inspiration and reflection.

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Two Profiles before the Eiffel Tower, Man Ray, 1930, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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(Untitled), Man Ray, 1927, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

ABC, Man Ray, 1947, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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The Delicious Fields, Man Ray, 1922, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Return to Reason by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Frequently classified as “the poet who writes with light”, Man Ray is this man “with the head of a magic lantern”, according to André Breton, who makes photography to serve “other purposes than those for which it was created, and in special to pursue, on its own account and commensurate with its own resources, the exploration of this region which painting thought would be able to reserve for itself”

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Natasha (1931) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Nudes

The woman theme, especially the nudes, takes up an important place in Man Ray’s work. The woman, mostly sublimated (both in his portraits and in his fashion photography), is undoubtedly linked to the theme of love: Man Ray’s personal life is marked by stories which nourished his photographic work: Kiki (1922–1926), Lee Miller (1929–1932), Meret Oppenheim (1933–1934), Ady (1936–1940) and, finally, Juliet (as from 1941) were, each at a time, the artist’s muses.In Man Ray, the trait and the subtleness of a body detail prevail over all the rest, as if the photographer scrutinized the woman with a magnifying glass and extracted subliminal features therefrom. The poetry of the images is explicit and for Man Ray, as for most Surrealists, “the woman is the being which casts the greatest shadow or the greatest light on our dreams”.An object of desire, the woman evolves in a strange world, with she herself dematerialized. More frequently, Man Ray uses solarization (The Primacy of Matter over Thought, 1933), but, at times, also superimposition or inversion, or, still, frames a part of the body.Man Ray’s emblematic nude, Ingres’ Violin (1924), not only praises the woman’s classic beauty, but also expresses the obsession she brings up in his soul. Contrary    to other Surrealists, for whom the woman is often depicted as a religious mantle (Dalí,Masson, Giacometti), Man Ray seems fascinated by her charms and seeks, above all, to privilege her beauty.

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Natasha, Man Ray, 1931, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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(For Easy, by Paul Éluard), Man Ray, 1935, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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(Male nude), Man Ray, c. 1930, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Return to Reason (1924) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Kiki, Man Ray, 1924, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Kiki, Man Ray, 1926, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Butterflies (1935) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Nature

Man Ray resides in Paris for almost fifty years, from 1921 to 1940, and after   1951 up to his death, in 1976; however, very few images of the city are preserved in all his work. Some present emblematic sites (such as the Saint-Sulpice Square, the Seine River quay, and the Place de la Concorde) and are characterized by  their visual complexity. The framing, the nighttime views, all seek to avoid the “postcard” effect, emphasizing the effect photographic, as well as erasing the commonplace, highlighting a new iconography, albeit classic in its construction.In the quest for incongruous details, isolating certain elements of their context, Man Ray materializes André Breton’s viewpoint, according to which “surreality would be contained in reality itself”.Likewise, very few examples of nature photographs are found. What most frequently interests him is the loss of scale, which leads to a perception of monumentality: the close-up denatures the photographed object, making it liable to digression. Simple pebbles become, through the lenses’ bias, mountains in an unreal landscape, true “anamorphic” forms, and a flower metamorphoses into a symbol of purity or chastity.

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Magnolia, Man Ray, c. 1930, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Galets, Man Ray, 1933, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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The Mysteries of the Chateau of Dice and Star of the Sea [or Starfish] by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

The Big Wheel, Man Ray, 1921, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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La Galerie Surréaliste, rue Jacques Callot, Man Ray, 1926, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Place de la Concorde, Man Ray, c. 1936, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Shop Window, Man Ray, 1928, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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The Fountain on Place Saint-Sulpice (c. 1936) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Man Ray resides in Paris for almost fifty years, from 1921 to 1940, and after 1951 to his death in 1976; however, throughout his entire work, only very few images of the city are presented. Some depict emblematic places (such as the Place Saint-Sulpice or the Place de la Concorde) and are noteworthy because of their visual complexity. The framing, nighttime views, everything attempts to avoid the “postcard” effect, enhancing the photographic effect, as well as erases the commonplace, in favor of a new iconography, albeit classic in its construction.

Emak Bakia (1926) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Mr. Knife and Mrs. Fork answers all the wishes of René Crevel (1944) by Man RayOscar Niemeyer Museum

"Objects of My Affection"

Thus Man Ray spoke of his objects, which stem, mostly, from his collage technique.Their effect arises from the overlapping of heterogeneous elements. With Gift – a clothes iron decorated with nails –, Man Ray invents the shock of the unexpected and of the strange, upon his first exhibition in Paris, in December 1921. The poetic character of the objects found and assembled (Fisherman’s Idol, 1926), and mainly the importance of language and of expressions takenin a literal sense from French – a language Man Ray did not speak very well – are at the genesis of creation of a large number of objects. At times, some were inspired directly in literature (Mr. Knife and Mrs. Fork). Their aim is to disturb us, and engender chains of images and of ideas which usher in access to a reality much more stimulating and richer than that proposed by rationalism.Most of these objects vanished during the Second World War. They have subsisted thanks to photos which Man Ray himself took and could thus be reedited as from the 1960’s.

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Pêchage [Pescegada], Man Ray, 1969, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Dancer/Danger, Man Ray, 1970, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Fisherman’s Idol, Man Ray, 1926, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Non-Euclidian Object, Man Ray, 1932, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Boardwalk, Man Ray, 1917–1973, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Café Man Ray, Man Ray, 1948, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

A missing object, recreated by Man Ray in 1947. “An object comprising 63 coat hangers, mathematically hooked to one another, as they consist of equations: they are hooked so as to form an arithmetical progression; firstly, one; then, on each side, another, which adds to two and, on these, two more, which adds up to four; then, eight, as so on up to the sixth row having 32, totaling 63 hangers! I could place many more of them, until they fully took up the gallery, but thus, there would be no way to come in there and see the pictures hanging, and this is logically called Obstruction”.

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Man Ray in Paris (2020)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Credits: Story

Realization: Museu Oscar Niemeyer
Curatorship: Emmanuelle de l'Ecotais
Copyright: © Man Ray 2015 Trust
Exhibition's Photographer: Marcello Kawase

Additional information of the artworks can be found within the description of each one

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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