Man Ray - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 1, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    From the artist; to Luciano Anselmino, Turin
    Private Collection, Italy
    Private Collection, New York

  • Literature

    East River Press, Man Ray Photographs, 1975, cover
    Damiani, Man Ray: Women, p. 64 there titled Natacha Allongée
    Dover, Photographs by Man Ray: 105 Works, 1920-1934, p. 35
    Harry N. Abrams, Man Ray: 1890-1976, pl. 488 for a variant
    Schwarz, Man Ray: The Rigour of Imagination, pl. 449
    The Toyko Shimbun, Photographies de Man Ray, pl. 130
    Sayag, Man Ray: Photography and Its Double, pl. 134 for a variant

  • Catalogue Essay

    As one of the most prominent members of the Dada and Surrealist movements that typified the European art scene between the Wars, Man Ray created a visual language—most notably with his rayographs and solarized images—that was emblematic of the imaginative and innovative aesthetics espoused by the aforementioned movements. Man Ray’s creative input came to life during the years of the first World War when he became part of the avant-garde community in New York. “In this age,” Man Ray stated in his essay The Age of Light, “like all ages, when the problem of the perpetuation of a race or class and the destruction of its enemies, is the all-absorbing motive of civilized society, it seems irrelevant and wasteful still to create works whose only inspirations are individual human emotion and desire.” That was, for Man Ray the grandiose brutality of the war, in which humanity turned against itself, engendered the need to prioritize the creative collective over the emotional self and therefore innovate and transcend the human experience altogether. Man Ray’s darkroom experimentations, which, as seen in the current lot, resulted in a number of hauntingly beautiful solarized negatives, were an optimal vessel to channel that newfound transcendental creativity. “For…whether another [person],” Man Ray continued, “working directly with light and chemistry, deforms the subject as almost to hide the identity of the original, and creates a new form, the ensuing violation of the medium employed is the most perfect assurance of the author’s conviction.” Subversion of reality, therefore, was instrumental for the aesthetic and conceptual transcendence of the final image. The purpose of art—and in Man Ray’s case, photography—was not to capture the world as it was happening but rather surpass reality itself. Surrealism par excellence.

    The current lot depicts a beautiful woman, her head tilted and comfortably nestled between a graceful crisscross of her arms. Her eyes are closed, which does not allude to sleep as much to that which takes place during—the reign of the subconscious. “An effort impelled by desire must also have an automatic or subconscious energy to aid its realization,” Man Ray stated. The advancement of the subconscious to the foreground allows for unencumbered creativity to self-express, released from any anchors to a self-sabotaging (or at least self-conscious) reality. Consequently, reason is subservient to the whimsical nature of random during the full embrace of the illogical and the absurd by the subconscious. “All of these chinoiseries,” Man Ray playfully inscribed on the overmat of the print, “transport us to the Mediterranean—born without a father nor a mother.” The parents, one might surmise, are metaphors for that which tethers one to a linear generational progression.

    The print in this lot was originally gifted to Luciano Anselmino by the artist. As one of only a handful of prints that would have been made of the solarized negative, Man Ray gifted Anselmino the print in the 1970s, possibly in 1974, when the two spent part of the summer together, and when the young Italian dealer was appointed by Man Ray as his primary dealer in Europe. The collaboration between the two resulted in multiple projects, including several exhibitions and various publications such as, First Steps, Man Ray: Opera Grafica, Mr. and Mrs. Woodman, and a number of limited edition multiples of some of Man Ray’s earlier works, including New York, Cadeau and Indestructible Object.

    Another print of this image is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.


Untitled (Natasha)

circa 1931
Gelatin silver print from a solarized negative, print date unknown.
3 3/4 x 5 in. (9.5 x 12.7 cm)
Signed and inscribed in ink on the overmat.

$80,000 - 120,000 

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New York Auction 1 October