Lessons From Last Night's Lecture

Man Ray at the UNM Art Museum

Man Ray's Noire et Blanche, 1926
Man Ray's Noire et Blanche, 1926
©2010 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Last night, UNM Art Museum hosted the second in a series of six lectures that correspond to their present (and fantastic!) exhibition, Man Ray, African Art and the Modernist Lens. Katherine Ware, from Santa Fe’s Museum of Fine Arts, addressed a packed room on the luminary artist’s early years – in a talk aptly titled, “In the beginning: Man Ray in New York.”

Many things were free* for the learning, but some stood out as particularly fascinating. And I’m going to relay them to you. With the understanding that you’ll go to the next lecture (on Thursday, February 25, at 11:30a.m.) yourself.**

Please Note: The quotes are all Katherine Ware’s, and the points come directly from her lecture, but I’ve inserted some background/biographical info here and there. Which I’ve noted with dashes like this –. I also included some helpful links that you might want to peek at.

1) It took Man Ray, by his own admission, “six months to recover from the Armory Show” – the International Exhibition of Modern Art, held in New York, 1913. When he got his artistic cookies together, he painted his Portrait of Alfred Stieglitz. Which you can see here (third down from the top).

These people are learning. About art. And history. And life. On a Tuesday night. You should try it sometime.
These people are learning. About art. And history. And life. On a Tuesday night. You should try it sometime.

2) Alfred Stieglitz – brilliant photographer, renowned gallery owner, profound influence on Man Ray and (fun NM fact alert) Georgia O’Keefe’s husband – was a “vanguard in showing African Sculpture as ART.”

3) In the early 20th century – at the birth of modernism – the “African Tradition” gave Man Ray and his contemporaries “another way” to represent reality, to show “interior life through the physical form of the body.”

4) Man Ray’s very first photographs were of his own – other and precursory – artwork, so that he could do the press/PR for his very first solo show at Daniel Gallery in New York.*** He learned the techniques from Stieglitz.

5) Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp – who had a fabled friendship – met through the Arensbergs, a New York couple famous for their art collection. When Ray and Duchamp first encountered one another, they did not share a common language (Ray spoke English; Duchamp, French). So they did what anyone else in such a situation would do: They played tennis.

6) By 1920, Man Ray had effectively “absorbed so much of what he’s seen, found his own voice, and caught up to other” artists of his time; he was finally a “real peer” – of Stieglitz, Duchamp and the members of their modernist cohort.

7) Though Man Ray aspired to be “taken seriously as a painter,” his greatest successes were as a “portrait artist of other artists and their work.” He made his living in New York this way, and he continued when he moved to Paris – in 1921 – though there he gained fame for his innovative photography and light relief/exposure techniques.

For more on UNM’s Man Ray show, visit the Art Museum's website or see the Alibi article.

For a complete list of the remaining lectures, check this out.

* The museum is open to the public, generally without admission. But there’s a donation box near the front doors, and I strongly encourage putting money into it on your way into the exhibit (or any of its corresponding events) so that UNM – for the good of greater Albuquerque – can continue to support shows of this remarkable caliber.

** Let’s call this: The Great Gentleman’s Agreement of February 2010. You’re on your honor to adhere to my attendance request. I’m fulfilling my end of the bargain just by writing this blog.

*** Ms. Ware mentioned 1914 as the year of this show… But I found 1915 listed most elsewhere. Any input, peeps?