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Man Ray: Human Equations
Edited by Wendy A. Grossman, Edouard Sebline. Text by Wendy A. Grossman, Adina Kamien-Kazhdan, Edouard Sebline, Andrew Strauss, François Aspery, Mark Green, Kirsten Hoving, Alexa Huang, Peggy Kidwell, Philip Ording, Stuart Sillars, Cedric Villani, Gabriele Werner, Michael Witmore.
Man Ray's Shakespearean Equations—a series of paintings he considered to be the pinnacle of his creative vision—has long been a puzzle of Surrealism. What meaningful common thread could possibly link Shakespeare, mathematics and art? This volume sets out to unravel the puzzle by beginning with photographs of mathematical models that Man Ray took at the Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris in the 1930s. It then charts the artist's development along a path that culminates with the Shakespearean Equations, a series of oil paintings he made in Hollywood more than a decade later, inspired by that earlier photographic work. The canvases build a bridge from painting back to photography and reveal the ease with which Man Ray moved between various disciplines and forged his own path. An inveterate experimenter, he pioneered artistic activities in the realms of painting, object making, film and photography, challenging conventional boundaries and blurring established aesthetic categories.
Man Ray was born Emmanuel Radnitzky in Philadelphia in 1890 and grew up in New York, where he studied art at the National Academy of Design and the Ferrer School. A nomadic soul like his lifelong friend Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray relocated many times throughout his life, worked in many media and likewise stopped short of officially joining the ranks of either Dada or Surrealism, though he was informally close to both movements. Participating in the most groundbreaking formal experiments of the Western modernist avant-garde, Man Ray made Cubist paintings, readymades, camera-less photographs and nonnarrative films (among many other things). He died in 1976 and was buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris. His epitaph reads: "unconcerned, but not indifferent."
"Twelfth Night" (1948) from the Shakespearian Equation series, is reproduced from Man Ray: Human Equations.
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FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG
CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 2/28/2015
Man Ray's 1948 oil painting, "Julius Caesar"—produced during his decade-long exile in Hollywood, precipitated by the German occupation of Paris—is from Ray's Shakespearean Equation series, in which Ray drew upon his own pre-war photographic studies of mathematical models and appropriated titles from Shakespeare. Essayist Andrew Strauss writes, "The Shakespearean Equations reveal Man Ray at the height of his creative powers, employing a unique set of artistic skills that transcend media. His experience as a photographer allowed him to see the mathematical models in the Institut Poincaré as more than the mere visualization of abstract formulae, but as harboring a potential to be read anthropomorphically. His skill as a painter gave him the tools necessary to transform these images into a series of highly provocative paintings, and perhaps most importantly, his instinct to avoid convention gave him the liberty to assign each work with the title of a play from Shakespeare. Ultimately, he leaves the burden of interpretation with his viewers, an invitation that some might consider his ultimate Surrealist act." continue to blog