“The red lips floated in a gray-blue sky, above a crepuscular landscape where one could see, on the horizon, an observatory and its two domes, like breasts, barely suggested in the half-light.
It is a feeling I got from my daily walks in the Luxembourg gardens. Probably due to their dimensions, the two lips resembled two bodies embracing. It was very Freudian”
Man Ray, Autoportrait, 1963
Cahiers d’Art is pleased to present an exhibition of works by Man Ray from April 12 through May 28, 2022, across its spaces at 14 and 15 rue du Dragon, Paris. The exhibition is a recreation of Man Ray’s 1935 exhibition at Cahiers d’Art, and includes a selection of his photographic works – both portraiture and experimental works – as well as paintings, drawings, mixed media, and sculptural works.
By the time Man Ray (1890-1976) moved to Paris in 1921, he was already well-acquainted with the European avant-garde, having met Marcel Duchamp in New York during WWI. A frequent attendee of New York salons and an eager participant in Dada, Surrealist, and Cubist group shows, Man Ray was young, dedicated, and inspired.
To help support himself financially, he began taking photographs. His photographs were originally simply documentation for other artists. This evolved into portrait photography of the various members of the art scene in which Man Ray found himself, until eventually he moved on to fashion and advertising photography. Man Ray, however, refused to produce work that did not align with his aesthetic values. His work created a surreal and dream-like aura with a striking sharpness. He experimented with cameras and with dark room techniques. He brought the Rayogram back into popularity coining the term Rayograph. Though the public was generally more interested in his photography, Man Ray continued to paint through it all, while also making collage and sculptural works.
A dear friend of Christian and Yvonne Zervos, Man Ray’s visual and written work often appeared in la Revue des Cahiers d’Art, and Zervos frequently wrote about the young American artist.
In 1934, Zervos approached Man Ray about creating the monograph Photographies, which was published by Cahiers d’Art that same year. The book explores three major themes in Man Rays photography: women, portraiture of men, and surreal objects. It includes texts by André Breton, Tristan Tzara, and a poem dedicated to Man Ray by Paul Éluard.
A year later, Zervos asked Man Ray if he would be interested in a solo show at Cahiers d’Art. It is this 1935 exhibition that is reimagined and presented today. Among the works on display are Chess Set (1920-62), with its accompanying wooden table from 1962, works from the Mathematical Shakespearean Equation series, and the 1967 lithograph of À l’Heure de l’Observatoire – Les Amoureux, the artist’s most renowned painting, which greets our present audience in much the same way as the painting met viewers in the past. In the pursuit of reaching the true core of an idea, Man Ray often explored a visual motif or theme through a variety of mediums – in the case of those in Les Amoureux, through painting, lithography, and writing. This way of working has aided us immensely in bringing a number of the artist’s ideas from 1935 together again in this 2022 exhibition.
Man Ray continues to be one of the most influential artists of his generation. An essential member of the Dada and Surrealist movements, his legacy is not only felt in photography today, but also in the way that artists approach visual and physical themes. Exhibitions dedicated to the artist continue through today at leading museums and institutions internationally, including the National Portrait Gallery, London; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London. His work is held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.