Man Ray at National Portrait Gallery
Exhibited at the first major museum to showcase retrospective and influential photographic portraits, world-renowned photographer Man Ray’s work is given well deserved exposure at The National Portrait Gallery. A lifelong photographer, Ray’s work develops perceptibly as he ages.
One of his earliest pieces is a profile photograph of Mina Lay (1920), displaying his avant-garde tendencies with Lay placed in a dark room wearing a thermometre as an earring. It is interesting to note the simplicity of his work at this early stage, at a time in New York where the first world war had just ended and culture chaos was in full swing.
Man Ray’s work is notable in its depiction of female expression at a time when women’s rights were undeveloped. He regularly features rather voyeuristic shots of Alice Prin, nightclub singer, muse and model also known as Kiki de Montparnasse. Le Violon D’Ingres (1924) shows Kiki’s back with overlaid F holes to resemble those of a cello or violin. Kiki is also seen wearing a turban, reflecting Man Ray’s fondness for innovation and tolerance toward other cultures. Kiki at the Beach Near Chatillion (1926) this is overtly erotic, portraying a nude Kiki, mid dance step.
Man Ray is deservedly revered as a surrealist innovator, willing and able to explore the boundaries between “good” and “bad” photography. His early focus on female anatomy, and his depiction of unusual relationships were at the avant-garde of their era, and he has succeeded in generating art that is both minimalist and grandiose.
Photos: Dimitris Amvrazis