December 22, 1989 |
The artist Man Ray once declared that his goal was "to accuse, bewilder, annoy or to inspire reflection. " He was mistaken by putting in or. There's nothing wrong with annoying and inspiring reflection, or provoking artistic shock and provoking brain activity. He succeeded at both. Man Ray's current exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art shows an artist who rebelled against art as a conventional form of expression. For him, art had very little to do with fitting into established patterns and very much to do with breaking them, turning them upside down, mocking them.
November 29, 1988 |
In 1972, when I met Man Ray, the painter and photographer who revolutionized photography, he was 82 years old but still on the field, fighting his own battles for freedom. "Youth is psychological," he told me. "My body may show the effects of 82 years of hard living, but my mind's all right, and I'm not interested in the past. I have dozens of portfolios packed with sketches and ideas which I plan to develop in the future. " His vitality was such that, even after his death in 1976, his presence went right on being felt in the art world.
December 6, 1988 |
The notes I took after my 1972 conversation with Man Ray show that he was a common sense philosopher as well as a painter and photographer. He was also 50 years ahead of his time, and while he insisted that there was a difference between the iron he transformed by gluing tacks on its face in order to make it useless, and Warhol's soup can, he nevertheless did see a connection. "This generation, like the Dadaists, wants to clear the field, destroy everything," he told me. "That's what the young advocate, but they don't really do it. It would be too much work.
August 3, 2002 |
Well before Andy Warhol and his Factory, New York had other artists and entourages. One in the 1940s was the photographer Man Ray, and among those who fancied herself in his circle was a model named Patricia deJohn. She also dabbled in art and antiques, collecting more than dealing. Among her acquisitions was a copy of one of Ray's more whimsical works, Mr. and Mrs. Woodman, a limited-edition album of 50 photographs of jointed wooden mannequins in various poses, some of them sexually explicit.
November 5, 1989 |
It has been observed that the arrival of "Perpetual Motif: The Art of Man Ray" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art represents a double measure of poetic justice. The retrospective, which originated at the National Museum of American Art in Washington in December, is concluding in Man Ray's nominal home town and in a museum that holds an exceptional collection of work by his close friend and aesthetic soulmate, Marcel Duchamp. The Duchamp connection is particularly fitting, for no other American artist embraced the spirit of the satiric dada movement as wholeheartedly as Man Ray. If Duchamp was the father of dada, Man Ray was its first cousin.
October 27, 1989 |
How felicitous that Man Ray (dada dad) and Andy Warhol (pop papa) enjoy concurrent local exhibitions, Ray at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Warhol at the Institute of Contemporary Art. Both artists had significant careers as avant-garde filmmakers and, happily, both shows have film sidebars. The Art Museum show includes four of Man Ray's vanguard films in the artist's retrospective. Warhol's early films are unavailable for distribution until next spring, so the ICA is hosting an evening of American underground films of the '50s, that were on the New York scene when Warhol arrived.
January 8, 1998 |
Picture this: photographs created without using a camera. The process of making these pictures, called photograms, has been around for at least 100 years, but to Harriet Ackerman's students at Lower Merion High School, creating the images was an awesome project. Yesterday, Ackerman invited Justyna Badach, a photography teacher at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, to be the guest instructor in her metal arts class. Ackerman, who teaches jewelry-making, said the photograms would be used as inspiration by the students for future jewelry projects.
December 14, 1991 |
Famous photographers often become identified with one or two signature images that encapsulate their careers for posterity. Berenice Abbott, who died Monday at 93 at her home in central Maine, will always be remembered for her singular portrait of James Joyce. Yet distilling her exceptional career down to that image - which endures as much for the fame of the sitter as for the skill of the photographer - blunts one's appreciation of her considerable accomplishments. Abbott, who learned her craft from Man Ray in Paris in the early 1920s, was the last of the modernist giants of the medium.
September 3, 1989 |
This year's sesquicentennial of photography will be remembered for the astonishing prices paid for photographs at auctions. In three days, nearly $5 million was spent for photographs at three New York auction houses. Sotheby's sold $2,451,570 worth of pictures; Christie's, $1,938,200, and Swann, $486,000. The grand total for those sales in April was almost 60 percent better than last fall's cumulative total, which was a record $3,076,970. Sales this fall are expected to be strong, but may not top the spring performance.
June 27, 1999 |
Conventional portrait photography is condescended to by the art world. So in the three-artist, portrait-photography exhibit at Abington Art Center, don't expect to see anything remotely conventional. The approach in this show, titled Mortal Terrain, is much more indirect and subtle. Only one of the artists, David Freese, shows work you might recognize as portraiture at all. And go figure how the large painted images by Tracey Howard ever could have started out as photographs. This is another example of a display format favored by neighborhood art centers with increasing regularity - several mini-solo exhibits held to spotlight promising and diverse regional talent.