Visu­al Arts

Alias Man Ray

Mason Klein
  • Review
By – October 10, 2011

Born in 1890 to Russ­ian Jew­ish immi­grants, Emmanuel Rad­nitzky, bet­ter known as the artist Man Ray, was the sub­ject of a sem­i­nal 2009 sur­vey at The Jew­ish Muse­um in New York. This land­mark exhi­bi­tion marks the first major muse­um show in New York of the artist’s work since 1974. The cura­tor Mason Klein pre­sent­ed a com­pre­hen­sive exhi­bi­tion of Dada and Sur­re­al­ist pho­tos, paint­ings, col­lages, sculp­tures, in rela­tion to issues around Ray’s iden­ti­ty – cul­tur­al, artis­tic, reli­gious and oth­er­wise. The cat­a­logue com­pris­es a thought­ful essay by the cura­tor, an inter­view with Man Ray schol­ar Mer­ry A. Fores­ta, a text by George Bak­er on May Ray’s Cul­tur­al Indus­try” and flu­id cul­tur­al time­line by Lau­ren Schell Dick­ens. Klein’s text inves­ti­gates Ray’s strug­gle to both sub­vert his Amer­i­can Jew­ish iden­ti­ty in his artis­tic per­sona, yet high­lights where sub­tle ref­er­ences to his past sur­face in his oeu­vre. Mer­ry Foresta’s essay con­cen­trates Ray’s explo­ration of many artis­tic move­ments through­out the 20th cen­tu­ry but his lack of sus­tained alle­giance to one. She asserts that despite his inde­ci­sion, his avant-garde ideas in a vari­ety of media are what made him into one of the most influ­en­tial artis­tic fig­ures of the time. Lau­ra Schell Dick­ens pro­vides a fas­ci­nat­ing time­line, which focus­es impor­tant events in Ray’s life and jux­ta­pos­es them with artis­tic, cul­tur­al, and polit­i­cal events of his era. Klein’s book is a wor­thy com­pan­ion to The Jew­ish Museum’s exhibit.

Jes­si­ca Kreps Rothen­berg is the direc­tor of sales at Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York. She grad­u­at­ed from Emory Uni­ver­si­ty sum­ma cum laude with a major in Art His­to­ry and a minor in Polit­i­cal Science.

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