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Alias Man Ray: The Art of Reinvention

November 15, 2009 - March 14, 2010

Man Ray Self-Portrait 1916Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky)
Self-Portrait, 1916
Gelatin silver print
3 3/4 x 2 3/4 in. (9.5 x 7 cm)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2009 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Man Ray’s movement toward an art of defiance positioned him perfectly to join Marcel Duchamp’s revolt against an exhausted aesthetic tradition. Together they helped initiate New York Dada, a short-lived branch of the international movement that abhorred the xenophobia throughout Europe during the Great War. By advancing the transnationalism of Dada, Man Ray became part of a riotous group that resisted any authoritative effort to reduce, define, or codify its identity.

As an anarchistic phenomenon, the eruption of Dadaism provided the perfect vehicle for Man Ray. He reveled in its spontaneous forms, which lacked specificity and programmatic direction, and in its self-mocking manifestos that required no ideological alignment. Hugo Ball, one of the founders of Dada at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, called for a revolt against the “senilities of grown-ups,” proclaiming that Dada aimed “to remind the world that there are independent men—beyond war and nationalism—who live for other ideals.”

With its insistence on the multiplicity of meaning, Dada facilitated Man Ray’s need to escape the insularity of his ethnicity. Having emerged in response to the anti-individual, collective experience of World War I, Dada provided Man Ray with an opportunity to practice his art within a framework to suit his need for both acceptance and independence. Dada, however, could not sustain itself in New York. As Man Ray wrote in a letter to Dadaist Tristan Tzara shortly before moving to Paris, “dada cannot live in New York. All New York is dada, and will not tolerate a rival.”

Starting Over in Paris >

The audio component is produced by The Jewish Museum in association with Acoustiguide and includes critical commentary by curator Mason Klein; Neil Baldwin, author of Man Ray: American Artist; and Man Ray scholar Merry Foresta.

Audio guides made possible by Bloomberg