Man Ray’s Shakespearean Equations: King Lear

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(left) Man Ray, Shakespearean Equation, King Lear, 1948. Oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 24 1/8 in. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1972. © Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris 2015. Photography by Cathy Carver (right) Mathematical Object: Kummer Surface with Eight Real Double Points, c. 1900. Plaster with metal supports, 7 1/2 × 11 × 5 7/8 in. Brill-Schilling Collection. Institut Henri Poincaré, Paris. Photo: Elie Posner

Man Ray placed the painted canvas of King Lear onto a wooden hoop, turning the work into a three-dimensional object and referencing the recurring motif in his work of “squaring the circle.” In rendering this mathematical model on canvas, Man Ray removed the supports integral to the original object (seen in the image above right), leaving the model afloat in an ambiguous space. He commented: “The color had dripped somewhat, it looked like tears, I called the painting King Lear.” This title-inspiring effect—whether truly fortuitous or intentional—echoes a drip technique he exploited in other works.

From The Curator: Man Ray–Human Equations

Curator Wendy Grossman takes you through the galleries of Man Ray–Human Equations, explaining how the exhibition charts a path “from object to image, from photography to painting, from Surrealist Paris to golden-age Hollywood.”

Man Ray, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Mathematical Models

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Installation view of Man Ray-Human Equations: A Journey from Mathematics to Shakespeare

Phillips staff were treated to a tour of Man Ray–Human Equations: A Journey from Mathematics to Shakespeare and Hiroshi Sugimoto: Conceptual Forms and Mathematical Models before they open to the public this Saturday. We snapped some photos along the way; here’s a preview!

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Exhibition Curator Wendy Grossman discusses Man Ray’s “Lampshade.”

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Director of the Center for the Study of Modern Art and Curator at Large Klaus Ottmann gives a preview tour to Phillips staff members of newly installed Hiroshi Sugimoto: Conceptual Forms and Mathematical Models