Lampshade, 1919 (editioned replica, 1964), Painted aluminum. Private collection, courtesy Fondazione Marconi, Milan
“Nature, from the sea shell to the galaxy, is full of spirals. When I was a young man, I was already obsessed with this form; when working as a draughtsman I was fascinated by curves, spirals, parabolas, hyperbolas.”
In 1919, inspired by the chance discovery of an unraveled paper lampshade in the trash, Man Ray created Lampshade, one of the earliest manifestations of his obsession with the spiral. Like many of his other objects, this work continued to exist as a concept even after the original was lost, becoming better known through photographic translations and the 1939 painting Le Retour à la raison (Return to Reason). Man Ray made multiple replicas of Lampshade, including one featured in the 1944 exhibition Objects of My Affection.
Man Ray’s Equation (1947, oil on canvas, 16 × 20 1/8 in, private collection) alongside the drawing that preceded it.
Man Ray painted Equation (at left above) in Hollywood based on his 1939 drawing (at right). While the composition reveals recognizable elements from different mathematical models that appear in other Shakespearean Equation paintings, this canvas contains no suggestion of human entities or references to Shakespeare. It is also the only painting in the series that does not replicate any model in its entirety. Nonetheless, Equation notably foreshadows the Shakespearean Equations project, and Man Ray subsequently incorporated the canvas into the series.