"MAN RAY: PARIS~LA"
PRESENTED BY THE TRACK 16 & ROBERT BERMAN GALLERIES
BRINGS TOGETHER PAINTINGS, PHOTOGRAPHS, SCULPTURE, OBJECTS, PRINTS
AND OTHER EPHEMERA
-- One of the Largest Shows Ever Mounted, the Catalogue and Exhibition
Focus on the Artist's Life in Los Angeles --
Santa Monica, 29 August 1996 -- In a monumental and unprecedented collaborative effort, Track 16 Gallery and Robert Berman Gallery will present a landmark exhibition of work by Man Ray. Entitled Man Ray: Paris~LA, the exhibition spans this quintessential modernist's entire 50-year art making career, and includes the first ever in-depth look at the decade Man Ray lived in Southern California. Man Ray: Paris~LA opens at the combined Track 16 and Robert Berman gallery spaces at Bergamot Station on Saturday, September 21st and runs through January 31, 1997. A fully illustrated catalogue published by Smart Art Press will accompany the exhibition.
In the spirit of Dada and Surrealism, Man Ray has said he created works of art designed to "amuse, annoy, bewilder, mystify, [and] inspire reflection." With some 200 art works, the current exhibition is one of the largest sales exhibitions ever mounted and features objects, paintings, sculpture, chess sets, drawings, prints and other ephemera from the heirs of Man Ray's beloved wife, Juliet, as well as unique and eccentric works from his personal collection that amply testify to Man Ray's genius. Included are a group of important vintage photographs like Self Portrait (1920) and Lee Miller's Legs (c. 1930), as well as one of his acknowledged masterpieces, Le beau temps (1939). Also highlighted will be an installation of chess sets, and the drawings, prints and photographs of the game that typify Man Ray's spontaneous transmutation of ideas from one medium to another.
If there is one area in the arts in which Man Ray has left an indelible mark it is in photography. Starting with his experiments in Paris in 1921-22, Man Ray has consistently pushed the formal and imaginative boundaries of photography into the outer limits of creative expression. Man Ray: Paris~LA includes a stunning array of the artist's work from his portraits of the star-studded intellectual firmament of Europe and Los Angeles, to snapshots of Juliet and friends dressing up and clowning for the camera. The exhibition offers not only the formal images for which his photographic oeuvre is known, but also a glimpse into his intimate world where playfulness and amusement (the hallmarks of Man Ray's work) reign.
Although profoundly disturbed by having to leave his beloved Paris, the decade Man Ray spent in Los Angelesfrom 1940 to 1951proved to be fruitful personally and professionally. At 50, Man Ray was already a mature artist with an international reputation. During the Hollywood years he not only produced a prodigious number of paintings, but he created a large body of work in photography , and many "objects of my affection," as he liked to call them. Perhaps the most compelling "object of his affection" he encountered among the incredibly diverse group of people with whom he mingled was Juliet Browner, who became his muse and eventually his wife in a double wedding ceremony with Dorothea Tanning and his friend and fellow Surrealist, Max Ernst.
Ultimately, "the vibrancy of change" and the voyage of discoveryimportant themes in Surrealist literature and artcan be seen to be operating in the amazing array of work from Hollywood on view in Man Ray: Paris~LA. Of particular note are the photographic images, some of them never before seen: a dinner party at Igor Stravinsky's, Juliet on the beach at Malibu and perched tourist-style on a donkey in Tijuana, Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning lounging on the grass in Hollywood, palm lined streets, LA architectural landmarks, sleek cars, and intimate moments at home, all express the dynamic character of Man Ray's life in exile. His friends and visitors included the architect Richard Neutra, Marcel Duchamp, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, collectors Walter and Louise Arensberg, producer/director Albert Lewin, and Henry Miller, as well as actors and actresses and other Hollywood personalities. He had his first major retrospective here at the Pasadena Art Institute (later the Pasadena Museum of Art); he was in several photographic shows, and he lectured widely.
The artist developed a particularly fertile friendship with the entrepreneurial scion of the Copley newspaper chain, William Copley, whose gallery became a locus of avant guard art in Southern California. To Be Continued Unnoticed opened at the Copley Gallery in December 1948 with an impressive display of works including the debut of Lips that had been smuggled out of Nazi-occupied France and delivered with Le beau temps to Man Ray in his Vine Street Studio. Included in Man Ray: Paris~LA is his maquette for the catalogue of the Copley show, including the original clippings of the bad reviews he received from a previous Los Angeles art world outing!.
Man Ray's wit and wisdom illuminate his comments on Hollywood and the film industry in the original manuscripts and texts included in the exhibition. "I still have a feeling that an insignificant static drawing, painting or photograph can outlive a million-dollar film," he says. "It is always accessible, and there is no risk involved in the making. Yes, for me that artist is the real economist, he takes no chances." The catalogue, as well as a film series to be presented in conjunction with the show amply illustrate the divergence between Man Ray's and Hollywood's aims. "On the several occasions I have been approached by studios with the object of getting me behind the camera, I balked; I demanded to be placed in front of the camera," he declares in a letter. "I am here for the beautiful climate, and to enjoy myself, and to continue perpetrating all those creations which the supers would like to censor or destroy. I, also, have the distinction of being classed among the "degenerates" by the Nazis."
The catalogue, designed by Douglas Martin, will include over 50 illustrations and an exhaustive essay by acclaimed art historian Dickran Tashjian. Tashjian is currently Professor of Art History at the University of California, Irvine. A Guggenheim fellow, he is the author of several cultural studies of Dada and Surrealism, most recently, Joseph Cornell: Gifts of Desire and A Boatload of Madmen: Surrealism and the American Avant-garde. Also included in the catalogue will be an interview with James and Barbara Byrnes, the former, a curator at the then Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art, and the latter, the director of the American Contemporary Gallery. The Byrnes' knew Man Ray intimately and were part of his inner circle of friends.
His life-long friendship with Duchamp has placed Man Ray in the forefront of art history and as this exhibition demonstrates, he does not disappoint. MAN RAY: PARIS~LA is testimony to a great artist's enduring legacy, but it also speaks of a point of view that embodies the very essence of freedom and imagination. "When the spirit moves me, I use a stick with some hairs on it. I become a painter. My barber and the violinist above me also use sticks with hairs on them," he says in the To Be Continued Unnoticed. "We have much in common. We are also different. They try to do their work as well as possible. I simply try to be a free as possible...No one can dictate to me or guide me...The work is done. I have tasted freedom."