The Man Ray: Unconcerned But Not Indifferent exhibition comprises drawings, photos, paintings and sculptures from the Man Ray Trust collection in Long Island, New York. The Man Ray Trust collection has never gone on show before. In juxtaposing Man Ray’s artistic works, tools, documents, objects and pictures which gave the artist his inspiration, the exhibition creates a distinctive setting allowing visitors to experience and enjoy his wide-ranging artistic work.
The Man Ray Trust collection
After his death in 1976 Man Ray’s estate passed into the hands of his wife, Juliet, who was joined by her brothers in setting up the Man Ray Trust to preserve and promote the artist’s legacy. Part of the estate was donated to the French national museums, while the trust selected artworks, objects, documents and personal items for the American collection designed to provide a comprehensive overview of Man Ray’s creative period spanning over 60 years.
The trust has so far catalogued over 2,000 works and confirmed their authenticity. However, research work into all the facets of the collection has not yet been completed. Man Ray: Unconcerned But Not Indifferent is the first exhibition to provide a comprehensive insight into the collection. The unique feature of the trust’s collection is that it encompasses items from all Man Ray’s creative periods, including little-known early works, documents from his private life, sketches for large-scale works and their documentation as well as numerous masterpieces. As was stated in an article about the trust in the magazine ArtNews in June 2002, the collection is “perfect”.
The inscription on Man Ray’s gravestone Unconcerned But Not Indifferent was chosen as the title of the exhibition. Comprising over 300 exhibits, it is the first of its kind to relate Man Ray’s artistic works to the objects and images from which he derived his inspiration – his bowler hat and walking stick, items from the shelves of his studio in Rue de Ferou in Paris, his collection of erotic photographs and the objects he used for the camera-less photographic technique he called ‘rayography’.
Profiting from the abundance of material available in the Man Ray Trust, the exhibition looks at the development of numerous motifs from sketches up to the masterpiece and shows the occasional use Man Ray made of photographic material for paintings and works of graphic art. The exhibition also gives visitors an opportunity to form a picture of Man Ray’s life and his creative processes. Among the objects on display are personal items, such as pieces of jewellery that Man Ray made for his wife Juliet, private letters, drawings and manuscripts, including two early drafts of Man Ray’s autobiography, a formula for photographic chemicals and a patent application for a magnetic chess set. Also on show are documents never exhibited before, which Man Ray used as source material for his paintings and prints, as well as proofs containing comments Man Ray made for himself and his printers. These exhibits are assigned to the finished works to which they refer, thus offering a new insight into Ray’s life and artistic work.
The Unconcerned But Not Indifferent exhibition has been arranged in accordance with Man Ray’s four creative periods: New York (1890–1921), Paris (1921–1940), Los Angeles (1940–1951) and Paris (1950–1976). It begins with New York and a collection of proofs from Man Ray’s personal card files, in which he kept a record of his early works. These card files, the originals of which were stolen from Man Ray’s studio after his death and have never reappeared, were the subject of considerable controversy and have never been exhibited before. Wherever possible they are assigned to the works they document. Among the items on display from Man Ray’s years in Paris are the records of his own works and those of other artists, including Duchamp, Picasso, Miro and Leger, as well as a little book of Rousseau’s work that he produced. It was through Rousseau’s work that Man Ray learned to become a photographer, thus enabling him to gain entry to the Paris art world in the 1920s. Most of these works are likewise unknown.
Text Credits: The Berliner Festspiele, Berlin.
Image Credits: Poster of the exhibition “Man Ray: Unconcerned But Not Indifferent” (Design: Steenbrink Vormgeving, Berlin).