Man Ray, pseudonym for Emmanuel Radnitzky (Philadelphia, 1890 - Paris, 1976), self teaches himself photography in New York in the vicinity of Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery. Later, he settles in Paris in 1921 and immediately stands out as one of the greatest driving forces of the photographic revolution: from technical experimentation and choice of motifs. Ascribed to the surrealist movement, Man Ray puts his photographic ability to subvert images and give them a new visual and narrative reading to the service of this artistic trend. In this way, Man Ray's photographs have the ability to create metaphors and conceptual relations as in Integration of Shadows (1919) or in La femme (1920), which are based on values such as strangeness and visual and moral ambiguity. Moreover, his photographs make explicit the sensuality of women and human desire which can be seen in Érotique voilée (1933). As the art critic Werner Spies points out, "Man Ray tries immediately to assign the photograph a position far from the technological and repetitive conviction." In this sense, one of his greatest contributions is the "photograms" (photography without a camera) from 1922 and the "solarisation" from 1929. Here he uses many effects such as superimpression, the deliberate distortion and the reversal of values, all with the goal of creating and imagining a non-classical photograph, but high narrative content.
The exhibition Man Ray al descubierto emphasises the search for the subversion of reality and recreation as the essence of photography. In it several layers of design are seen, ranging from the reproduction of reality to very surreal compositions, which can be grouped into seven themes: "The photographer’s job", "Fashion and Advertising", "Reporting", "Nature", "The Body "," The Portrait "," Compositions ","Photograms" and "Photography as the reproduction of non-Euclidean space." In the set of photographs now gathered together, a desire to transcend the natural material of the human body is made out, particularly the voluptuousness of the female figure, with the aim of presenting it as the surface of extrasensory experiences (Retour à la raison, 1923; Lee Miller, 1929-1930; series Untitled. Natasha, 1931). Conversely, aspects and resources of abstraction and geometry are used as the grammar with which to manifest and emphasise the irrational nature of the created images (series L'Aurore des objets, 1937).
With a limited range of resources (use of light with dramatic effects, postures and gestures referring to a traditional sculptural iconography), the theatrical nature of his compositions (without noticing, in this respect, hardly any difference between his specific work for fashion and the rest of his photographs) and the appeal of framing as a later trick what is revealed, are the two factors that give his work its character of autonomous visual unit and show his consideration of the photographic technique as a constructive tool for new images and meanings.
Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, París (April 29 - June 29, 1998); International Centre of Photography, New York (November 18, 1998 - January 24, 1999)