Man Ray (Emanuel Rudnitsky) American, 1890-1976
Man Ray (born Emanuel Rudnitsky in Philadelphia) was an avant-garde painter and photographer active in the dada and surrealist movements who became known for his experiments with the photogram and solarization. He grew up in New York and in his 20s worked in the city as a commercial artist, attending night classes at the National Academy of Design and lectures at the avant-garde Ferrer Social Center. Visiting the 1913 Armory show and "291," Alfred Stieglitz's gallery, he became increasingly familiar with the latest developments in modern art.
In 1915 Man Ray had his first one-person show of paintings and drawings at New York's Daniel Gallery and met French artist Marcel Duchamp, with whom he became lifelong friends. He also began taking photographs that year as a way to document his paintings. Along with Duchamp and Francis Picabia, another French artist, Man Ray was a member of the New York dada group during World War I and in the years immediately following the war. In 1921 he moved to Paris, soon establishing himself as a professional portrait and fashion photographer. He also became interested in experimental photography, producing photograms (cameraless photographs that he called rayographs) and pioneering the use of solarization, a technique accidentally discovered by his darkroom assistant, Lee Miller, in 1929.
Throughout the 1920s-30s Man Ray worked with surrealist painters and poets on a number of collaborative projects, providing photographs for their books and articles. He also made avant-garde films, including Le Retour à la raison (1923), Emak Bakia (1926), L'Etoile de mer (1928), and Les Mysteres du Chateau du Des (1929). Widely recognized for its innovation, his work was shown at the first invitational exhibition of contemporary modernist photography held in Paris at the Salon de l'Escalier at the Théatre des Champs-Elysées (1928) and at the Film und Foto exhibition in Stuttgart (1929).
In 1940 Man Ray moved to Hollywood, where he worked as a freelance photographer and painter until returning to Paris in 1951. He experimented with color photography in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but painting became his primary interest. One of his paintings is also in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Man Ray's photographs have been exhibited in more than 100 one-artist exhibitions, including a retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1966), a showing at the Venice Biennale (1976), and major exhibitions at the Kunstverein, Frankfurt (1979, and tour), and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1981). Awarded the Gold Medal for photography at the Venice Biennale in 1961, Man Ray's images, which emphasize chance and the irrational and which deliberately mock traditional ideas of art, continue to fascinate and inspire generations of photographers. M.M.