Skip Navigation

Alias Man Ray: The Art of Reinvention

November 15, 2009 - March 14, 2010

Man Ray Self-Portrait 1942Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky)
Self-Portrait, 1942
Gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (11.43 x 8.89 cm)
Private collection
© 2009 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

As Man Ray witnessed the rise of Fascism and the expansion of the Third Reich in Europe in the late 1930s, he at first refused to believe that he would have to leave Paris. The artist was finally forced to flee mere days before the Nazis occupied the city. He secured passage to the United States in August 1940 and, after a brief visit in New York, settled in Hollywood to wait out the war.

Many of the works Man Ray painted during this period reveal his sense of persecution. The elegance of the perfectly poised rope dancer and her shadows was replaced by a teetering figure harshly illuminated by the foreboding nocturnal sun seen in Le rebus and Night Sun—Abandoned Playground. Man Ray despised the stark, invasive light representing the relentless German advance from which one could not hide. As the artist began to lose his guarded anonymity, he was compelled to confront a part of himself—his Jewishness—that he had assiduously avoided. It was at this time that he employed the motif of the articulated manikin, symbolizing his dread of being manipulated by others. He also became preoccupied with images of masks, secrecy, and concealment—as seen in The Fortunes of the Artist’s Double and Songe de la clef.

Another formal device Man Ray returned to was the use of primary colors. In La fortune and other works created during this fearful period, Man Ray sought to denaturalize nature, to assert the primacy of art, for he believed that primary colors are man-made. “A picture done in pure spectrum colors,” Man Ray wrote, “could never be reconciled with its surroundings—it would even combat other rainbows.”

A World of His Own Making >

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