The photographer Man Ray will forever be linked to Paris. Though connected to the Surrealist and Dadaist movements there, in the early 20th century, with his seminal films, objects, writings, typography and photography, Man Ray, or Emmanuel Radnitzky, as the American-born artist was called, is mostly revered for laying the groundwork for what we consider as art today.
Wishing to address a gap in the knowledge of Man Ray’s work as a universal artist in the German-speaking regions of Europe, an exhibition curated by Lisa Ortner-Kreil at Bank Austria KunstForum Wien takes a closer look at 150 of the visionary master’s works, that include painting, photographs, collages, assemblages, experimental film and more, tracing a prolific and intriguing career of a man who kept his personal life enigmatic and who created complex, layered visual meanings.
A truly modern artist – or contemporary avant-la-lettre, Man Ray is presented as a prototype of the artist as networker.
Man Ray dated many stars of the Paris social scene, such as Kiki de Montparnasse and Lee Miller, and photographed glamourous celebrities of his time, such as Gabrielle Chanel and James Joyce.
He also did not shy away from the sides of his art that could be commercially exploited, but worked as a commercial artist and technical illustrator for Manhattan companies before leaving for Europe.
As an experimental photographer, he built a solid career with titles like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.
In his art, Man Ray was daringly experimental. Like his friend Marcel Duchamp, he did readymades and he exhibited ‘unseen’ objects wrapped in cloth. But he also developed his own photographic methods of making images, combining spay-gun techniques with pen drawings, or airbrushing glass. He achieved worldwide fame with his so-called ‘rayographs’: portraits obtained without the use of a camera.
Discover Man Ray’s oeuvre beyond photography in the spacious rooms of Bank Austria Kunstforum, a 20-minute stroll from Hotel Altstadt Vienna. Man Ray articulates his very diverse use of media as follows in his 1963 autobiography, nine years before his death: “... the instrument did not matter – one could always reconcile the subject with the means and get a result that would be interesting (...) One should be superior to his limited means, use imagination, be inventive.”
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