Alias Man Ray: The Art of Reinvention November 15, 2009 – March 14, 2010

On March 10th, our class took a private tour of Alias Man Ray, the current special exhibition at the Jewish Museum.

Mason Klein, the museum’s curator, guided us through Man Ray’s work, speaking about his life, and its impact on his art.

“The quintessential modernist, Man Ray recast the concept of artistic identity, working as a painter, photographer, sculptor, printmaker, filmmaker, poet, and essayist.” http://www.jewishmuseum.org//Exhibition/Man Ray

Man Ray’s desire to show and hide himself (notoriety and oblivion) and the desire to merge with others  (tree en espalier) is represented in all his work; his need to free himself from his Russian-Jewish origins, trying to suppressed them, knowing his roots will always come back.

Born Emmanuel Radnitzky, Man Ray changed his name, to distance himself from his family.

In Promenade 1916, Man Ray is up scaling his signature to a status of its own, like Picasso, who would paint the letters J O U for journal (newspaper).

In one sense this is a self-portraiture, the projection of his name witch will become one with the environment in witch he was living and the representation of his artistic persona.

Promenade, 1916


A narrative that plays out in his work is the metaphor of shadow and highlights in his forms (in his radiographs, paintings and cuts out) , it is equal background and one does not overpower the other one. Giving shadow to objects or people makes it more difficult to grasp their forms.  They become more ambiguous.  There is always this negative-positive relationship in his work.

Arrangements of Forms NoI,1915


Jacqueline Goddard, 1930
Man Ray (American, 1890–1976)


He starts to inscribe in most of his work his name always referring obloquy to his interest into hold on into the shadow.

Modernism has always looked at an artist’s work through monocular lenses, seeing a progressive style emerge that is readily identifiable .
Man Ray wanted to challenge that by using a variety of artistic mediums.  This was based on his personal need to have a complex identity.  He didn’t believe in progress in art, and he didn’t want to be codified in any particular way.

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