Man Ray’s Literary Homage Through Painting

Aline et valcour_mannequin photograph

(left) Man Ray, Aline et Valcour, 1950. Oil on canvas, 30 x 38 in. Private Collection. © Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris 2015 (right) Man Ray, Untitled (Mannequin with Cone and Sphere), 1926. Gelatin silver print, 11 x 14 1/4 in. The Bluff Collection. © Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris 2015

Titling this work after a novel written by the Marquis de Sade while he was incarcerated in the Bastille in the 1780s, Man Ray pays homage to the literary figure greatly admired by the Surrealists. The novel Aline et Valcour explores the relativity of moral standards, a theme the viewer is encouraged to find embedded in this cryptic composition based on Man Ray’s photograph featuring the same elements.

What similarities between Man Ray’s photograph (at right) and his painting (at left) of the subject do you notice? What differences stand out?

650 shades of #InstaManRay

It’s only been about three weeks since Man Ray–Human Equations opened, but we’ve already received over 650 submissions from our in-gallery #InstaManRay interactive. Visitors to the exhibition have the opportunity to experience Man Ray’s artistic process by using social media app Instagram to photograph mathematical models and share their creations. Here’s just a sample of the inspired work.

Follow submissions throughout the exhibition via our Instagram account @InstaManRay2015 or #InstaManRay.


An Impossible Equation

Equation_installation shot ptg and drawing

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.