Man Ray by Roland Penrose Part 1.

This short autobiography is no longer in print.  I found it at the Strand and bought it with the hope for a light read about an interesting man. This was a success, albeit the writing style was a little less dissecting than desired.  Penrose believe Man Ray to be a genius, even if he was incapable of describing the details that made him so.  Penrose begins with Man's early life and works of art that he then describes. 

Dancer (Danger) 1920

"Man Ray's attitude became evident as early as 1920, in an object he made which was prophetic of his subsequent thought and work.  It consists of a combinations of cog-wheels, drawn with absolute precision and interlocked so closely that they immobilize each other.  Above them the word 'Dancer', which can also be read 'Danger', dominates the composition.  The object was realized with impeccable accuracy on a sheet of glass.  It is a conundrum in its title and in the contradiction it presents as a working drawing of functional machinery which cannot work.  It illustrates with precision Man Ray's reverence and distrust of the machine god..."  

It is this attitude that carries that main theme through out Man Ray's work. Once of continuing distrust, precision of skill, and contradiction. It should be noted that from the beginning of his life, Man Ray was never interested in creating works of   art that adhered to accepted forms of art.  He carried a passion for painting and drawing through out his life, but it was his photographs and sculptures that really carried the essence of his central aim. 

The Rope-Dancer Accompanies Herself With Her Shadows
1917 (aerograph)

Discouragingly, the beginning of Man Ray's art career yielded few sales and most of his work was met with dissatisfaction. 

"In his efforts to find new methods which would liberate him totally from the conventional manner of making pictures, and the aesthetic pretenses that went with it, he hit on the idea of taking home with him the paint spray he used for his office work and using it as a substitute for brushes and pencils.  The airbrush outfit with pump and instruments at once gave unexpectedly pleasing results.  But in spite of the poetic motive underlying the airbrush pictures, and the freshness and originality of work, they, just like the rest of his work, was met with hostile reception."

Man Ray continued on with life and eventually moved to Paris where he really began to make the bulk of the work that he became known for.  It was in Paris that he was able to meet many of the artists with whom he became friends for the entirety of his life.  It was this group of individuals that encouraged and inspired much of the work Man Ray was to later create.

"By chance, Man Ray found himself in Paris on 14 July 1921.  The national fete commemorating the storming of the Bastille was in full swing and Marcel Duchamp was waiting for him at the station.  The city's magnetism was drawing Dada revolutionaries from distant regions; Tzara and Arp had come from Zurich, Max Ernst from Cologne, Picabia, Duchamp and now Man Ray from New York."


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