Four Works by Man Ray
Curated by Peter Blank, Winter 2013
In his repeated engagements with the book as media object, the American artist Man Ray (born Emmanual Radnitzky, Philadelphia, 1890–Paris, 1976) extended the Surrealist fascination with ephemerality into the book as media and firmly established the book as an acceptable and readily available medium for modern artists. As Johanna Drucker notes in The Century of Artists’ Books, it is difficult to envision any art movement of the 20th century without also considering its relationship to the development of the artists’ book as a unique form with its own attributes. This is especially true for the “isms:” Expressionism, Futurism, Constructivism, Surrealism, etc.
The four co-authored works by Man Ray shown here are closely linked with the Surrealist era, dating from 1925 to 1937. These titles are decidedly collaborative efforts, each a partnership between Man Ray and a noted Surrealist writer: Jean Cocteau, Paul Éluard, and André Breton. They embrace the European tradition of the fine press livre d’artiste, but they also propose a new model for commercially produced artists books that was fully emergent by the 1960s.