MAN RAY, AFRICAN ART, AND THE MODERNIST LENS
OCTOBER 10, 2009-JANUARY 10, 2010
THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION, WASHINGTON DC
AUGUST 7-OCTOBER 10, 2010
THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA ART MUSEUM, CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA
OCTOBER 2010-JANUARY 2011
UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY, VANCOUVER, CANADA
The associated catalogue by Wendy Grossman includes full documentation of the photographs (many never previously published) and the African objects they feature, with a preface by Francis Naumann and essay by Ian Walker. Contributors to the cataloguing of the African objects, edited by Letty Bonnell, include Kevin Dumouchelle, Ekpo Eyo, Kate Ezra, Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers, Erin Haney, Alisa LaGamma, Jessica Martinez, Kwaku Ofori-Ansa, Constantine Petridis, Christopher Slogar, Z.S. Strother, Monica Blackman Visona.
In conjunction with the exhibition, a symposium on "African Art, Modernist Photography, and the Politics of Representation" will be held November 13-14, 2009. The keynote address will be given by Jack Flam, art critic and Distinguished Professor of Art and Art History at the City University of New York, the evening of November 13 at the David C. Driskell Center, University of Maryland. A full day of sessions by speakers including Elizabeth Harney (University of Toronto), James Small (University of Maryland Baltimore County), and others will follow at The Phillips Collection.
The exhibition "Man Ray, African Art, and the Modernist Lens" explores a little-examined facet in the development of Modernist artistic practice; namely, the instrumental role photographs played in the process by which African objects--formerly considered ethnographic curiosities--came to be perceived as the stuff of Modern art in the first decades of the twentieth century. At the center of this project are both well-known and recently discovered photographs by the American artist Man Ray (1890-1976), whose body of images translating the vogue for African art into a Modernist photographic aesthetic made a significant impact on shaping perceptions of such objects at a critical moment in their reception.
Man Ray was first introduced to the art of Africa in a seminal exhibition of African sculpture at Alfred Stieglitz's 291 Gallery in 1914. While his 1926 photograph Noire et blanche (Fig. 1) would later become an icon of Modernist photography, a large body of his lesser-known work provides new insight into how his photographs both captured and promoted the spirit of his age. From that initial discovery of the African aesthetic in New York to the innovative photographs he later made in Paris in the 1920s and '30s, Man Ray's images illustrate the way that African art acquired new meanings in conjunction with photography becoming legitimized as a Modernist art form.
As arguably the period's most prolific producer of photographs inspired by non European objects, Man Ray provides a rich body of work that raises critical issues about the role of African art in twentieth-century Modernism and offers new perspectives on that dynamic. For example, his work points to the crucial function photographs served in the collection and reception of African art, while at the same time demonstrating the symbiotic relationship forged between African objects and photographic images within...