24 January 2009 – 19 April 2009
“Man Ray (1890-1976) used his camera to turn photography into an art – no mean feat for a man who tried almost all his life to avoid being described as a ‘photographer’. He preferred to be identified with his work in other media: drawings, paintings and Dadaist ready-mades. The exhibition entitled Unconcerned, but not indifferent at the Hague Museum of Photography is a large-scale retrospective of Man Ray’s art and life. It links paintings, drawings and (of course) photographs to personal objects, images and documents drawn from his estate to paint a picture of a passionate artist and – whatever his own feelings about the description – a great photographer.
Unconcerned, but not indifferent is the first exhibition to reveal Man Ray’s complete creative process: from observations, ideas and sketches right through to the final works of art. By establishing the linkage between art and inspiration, it gives a new insight into the work of Man Ray. The three hundred plus items on display are drawn from the estate of the artist, which is managed by the Man Ray Trust. Some of them have never been exhibited since the artist’s death in 1976 while others are on show for the first time ever.
‘Noire et blanche’
Man Ray’s real name was Emmanuel Radnitzky. He was born in Philadelphia (USA) in 1890. The family soon moved to New York, where his artistic talent became increasingly apparent. Photography was not yet his medium: Man Ray, as he would later call himself, concentrated on painting and became friendly with Dadaist artist Marcel Duchamp, who persuaded him to move to Paris (France). There, Man Ray moved in highly productive artistic circles full of Surrealists and Dadaists. He began taking photographs of his own (and other people’s) works of art and gradually became more interested in the photographic images than in the originals – which he regularly threw away or lost once he had photographed them.
‘La priere’ (Prayer)
By this time, commercial and art photography had become his main source of income and he was displaying an unbridled curiosity about the potential of the medium. This prompted a great urge to experiment and the discovery or rediscovery of various techniques, such as the famous ‘rayographs’ (photograms made without the use of a camera). Man Ray left Paris to escape the Nazi occupation of France and moved to Los Angeles, where he abandoned commercial photography to concentrate entirely on painting and photographic experimentation. However, his next real surge of creativity occurred only after he returned to Paris with his wife Juliet in 1951. In the last twenty-five years of his life, he regularly harked back to his earlier work and was not afraid to quote himself. In that sense, Man Ray can be seen as a true conceptual artist: the idea behind the work of art always interested him more than its eventual execution. Man Ray died in Paris in 1976 and is buried in Montparnasse. His widow, Juliet, summed up the artist’s life in the epitaph inscribed on his tombstone: Unconcerned, but not indifferent.
The exhibition examines the four separate creative phases in Man Ray’s life. Each is closely connected with the place where he was living (New York, Los Angeles or Paris), his friends at the time and the sources of inspiration around him. Using Man Ray’s artistic legacy and – perhaps more particularly – the everyday objects that were so important to him, Unconcerned, but not indifferent reveals the world as he saw it through the lens of his camera.
The exhibition is being held in cooperation with the Man Ray Trust in Long Island, New York, and La Fábrica in Madrid.”
Text from The Hague Museum of Photography website