Man Ray American

Not on view

Man Ray began his career as a painter. He took up photography in 1915 when, finding no one who could make photographic reproductions of his paintings to his satisfaction, he decided to make his own. Soon he was making photographs of objects not unlike Marcel Duchamp's "readymades," ordinary objects elevated to the status of art because so designated by the artist, and "assisted readymades," objects that the artist "assisted," or altered, by combining them with others.

Parodying the sequence of the creation of Adam and Eve, Man Ray made "Woman" after he made "Man." "Man" is a photograph of a rotary eggbeater, its handle and beaters forming a visual metaphor of the male genitals. For "Woman," Man Ray assembled equipment from his darkroom--two spherical metal reflectors and six clothespins attached to a plate of glass--in such a way as to suggest the breasts, ribs, and spine of a woman. In that "Man" and "Woman" subvert traditional perceptions of the nude in art, they constitute an essentially Dada gesture. Once photographed, the objects ceased to exist as "man" and "woman"; they were dismantled, their component parts returned to their original use.

The two photographs appeared in "Dadaglobe," a journal edited by the Rumanian poet Tristan Tzara (1886-1963), one of the founders of the Dada movement in Zurich in 1916. They were exhibited in the "Salon Dada," "Exposition International," held at the Galerie Montaigne in Paris in June 1921, shortly before Man Ray moved to Paris from New York.

Woman, Man Ray (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1890–1976 Paris), Gelatin silver print

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