Man Ray - Unconcerned but not Indifferent
„Unconcerned but not indifferent“: the epitaph on Man Ray’s grave at the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris reflects his complex and multilayered artistic attitude.
When the Kunstforum Wien made a survey among visitors in 2016, asking which artist should be exhibited, the majority was for Man Ray.
In this first comprehensive retrospective of its kind in Austria, the Kunstforum now offers a view on the overall work of the artist, showing the stages of his career, the artistic development and of his biography. From New York he moved to Paris, then he had to flee the Nazi regime during the war and finally returned to Paris after the war where he died in 1976.
Curator Lisa Ortner-Kreil put together more than 150 works, on loan from all over the globe, including painting, photographs, objects, drawings, collages, assemblages and films.
Born in Philadelphia as Emanuel Radnitzky in 1890, Man Ray is considered an icon of the art of the 20th century, not only as a pioneer of photography but as a universal artist. In a playful way he used a great number of artistic media and techniques.
Although he had ambitions of being recognized as a painter at first, he contributed decisively to the recognition of photography as art. As a true multimedia artist he transcended genre categories, working on sculptures and film in addition to painting and photography. As a Surrealist and avantgardist he revolutionised fashion, advertising and portrait photography.
Besides works around 1914, influenced by Fauvism and Cubism, the Kunstforum exhibits even earlier drawings and also the painting „The Rope Dancer“ of 1916, together with a sketch.
With Pablo Picasso and the Cubists he shared a great interest in primitivism, during his time in Paris he also met Surrealists like Andre Breton or Louis Aragon. His lifelong friendship with Marcel Duchamp produced a number of collaborations of the two artists.
Today, many of Man Ray’s works are considered icons of Surrealism, like „Cadeau“ (1921), the iron with thumbtacks, -a „present“ by Man Ray for Erik Satie-, or the metronome with the eye, and of course the sewing machine wrapped in fabric (1920), one of the first of its kind, one that would become very influential for many artists, including Christo.
Several famous pictures like "Le Violon d'Ingres" of 1924, with the naked rear of Kiki de Montparnasse, are also on display in the Kunstforum.
Photographs in the exhibition show famous contemporaries like Coco Chanel, Picasso or Arnold Schönberg. Some of Man Ray’s muses and lovers are on his black and white photographs, there are also solarisation photographs, a technique he invented together with his assistant and lover Lee Miller. « Rayograohies », photographs without a camera, are also a hallmark of Man Ray’s work.
Man Ray painted, drew, wrote, made films, desgined books and magazines and had great success as a fashion photographer. Countless front pages of „Vogue“ and „Harper’s Bazaar“ testify to this. He managed to combine painting and photography, to reconcile avantgardist experimentation and commercial photography, he liberated photography from its documentary function and elevated it to the status of an art form.
The impressive versatility of Man Ray is demonstrated by the ease with which he combined his bohemian lifestyle with the work as a photographer of the upper crust and how he managed to move in different social environments. Remarkably, he was able not to get involved in all the conflicts and squabbles that went on within the avant-garde of his time. (written by Cem Angeli)
The exhibition continues until June 24th in the Bank Austria Kunstfroum, Vienna,https://www.kunstforumwien.at/