Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Man Ray: Capturing the Unseen

We can now enter the extraordinary world of Man Ray, a visionary artist who continues to influence future generations. The National Portrait Gallery is showcasing an inspiring exhibition focusing on his photographic portraiture. His piercing eyes reveal a curious and highly articulate mind, a fascinating man who not only has embraced life but transformed it.  

Man Ray Self-Portrait with Camera, 1932 by Man Ray
Man Ray Self-Portrait with Camera, 1932 by Man Ray
The Jewish Museum, new York, Purchase: Photography Acquisitions Committee Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Fund, and Judith and Jack Stern Gift, 2004-16. Photo by Richard Goodbody, Inc
© 2008 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris 2012 
© Photo The Jewish Museum

A reproduction of Kiki with African mask (1926) has been gracing my bedroom walls for a few years, I love her peaceful face and the way she's holding an African mask. So much can be said about it, this is undoubtedly an image worth a thousand words. It brings to mind how we tend to hang on to our shadows without realizing its illusory nature. Maybe it's worth facing our darkness in order to see the real beauty beyond it. 

Le Violin d'Ingres, 1924 by Man Ray
Le Violin d'Ingres, 1924 by Man Ray
Museum Ludwig Cologne, Photography Collections (Collection Gruber)
© Man Ray Trust / ADAGP © Copy Photograph Reinisches Bildarchiv Klöln

Man Ray's portraits can be not only thought provoking and visually stimulating but there's also an inner depth to them that is incredibly transcendental. He was a contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements after moving to Paris in 1921. We all feel fascinated by the people he has photographed, just as Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris (2011), we wish we could travel back through time in order to meet them.

"We all fear death and question our place in the universe. The artist job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence." Woody Allen in Midnight in Paris  


Solarised Portrait of Lee Miller, c. 1929 by Man Ray
Solarised Portrait of Lee Miller, c. 1929 by Man Ray
The Penrose Collection 
© Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012,
Courtesy The Penrose Collection. Image courtesy the Lee Miller Archives

Lee Miller, Aldous Huxley, Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Marquise Casati, Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Virginia Wolf... They all are a reference and as influential as Man Ray himself. It was a time when no one could take nothing for granted living life to the full, a breeding ground for creativity and experimentation.

Juliet, 1947 by Man Ray
Juliet, 1947 by Man Ray
Collection Timothy Baum, New York
© Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP / DACS

Man Ray described Picasso as 'a man who reacted violently to all impacts but had only one outlet to express his feelings: painting.' Although photography was never Man Ray's chosen principal artistic medium, it's impossible not to be mesmerised by his ability to capture the unseen, revealing far more than meets the eye. 

Catherine Deneuve, 1968 by Man Ray
Catherine Deneuve, 1968 by Man Ray
Private Lender
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP / DACS

Man Ray Portraits
Curated by Terence Pepper
National Portrait Gallery 
7 February - 27 May 

Other related blog posts:
Wear a Fringe Dress
Coco Chanel's Legacy
Shiaparelli and Prada at MET