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Bold Exhibition Explores Man Ray's Other Passion, Printmaking

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Most of us know Man Ray as a surrealist photographer, the inventive eye who transformed an odalisque into a human violin and a teardrop into a glowing, liquid orb. Yet a bold exhibition, entitled "Man Ray: Printmaker," argues that despite his reputation as a photographer, the artist himself considered painting and late printmaking his primary medium of choice.

Le violon d’Ingres, 1969
Lithograph, 27 ½ x 19 ¼ inches

Along with other artists like Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray spearheaded an artistic movement that welcomed the whimsical aesthetic of the absurd. Yet before teaming up with such artists circa 1920, Ray was already involved in printing lithographic illustrations to accompany his poetry. His printed works, like his iconic photographs, privilege play over logic, resulting in mysteriously charged depictions somewhere between banal and otherworldly.

This exhibition spans the final decade of Ray's life, when the artist returned to Paris in 1950 and devoted himself to printing. He employed printmaking firms in France and Italy to reproduce limited edition copies of his earlier works, demanding the finest of technological innovations to ensure the most accurate reproductions of his paintings.

"Still Life with Coffeepot" riffs off the art historical tradition of the still life, toying with artistic conventions using the help of blood red hues and tables that verge on tipping over. "Poire d’Erik Saite" channels Rene Magritte with an oversized pear standing alone beneath a sunny, blue sky. And finally, the iconic "Le violon d’Ingres" is revived in paint, exploring the distance between similar images in different media.

Behold, the best proof out there that Man Ray was as much a painter and printmaker as he was a photographer. Enjoy.

Still Life with Coffeepot, 1962
Lithograph, 30 x 21½ inches

Rebus, 1972
Etching on Japon paper, 26 x 20 inches

Dalla cartella: Bonjour Max Ernst, 1974
Lithograph, 25 ½ x 19 ¾ inches

Poire d’Erik Saite, 1969
Aquatint, 22 x 14 7/8 inches


Mythologie Moderne, 1969
Lithograph, 23 ½ x 19 ½ inches

Dalla Cartella

Dissuasine, 1969

The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with her Shadows, 1970
Lithograph, 21 x 28 ½ inches

"Man Ray: Printmaker" runs until October 25, 2013 at Francis M. Naumann Gallery in NYC.

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