SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Gagosian
is presenting The Mysteries of Château du Dé, an exhibition of works by Man Ray.
During his storied career, Man Ray, a multidisciplinary artist with a rare breadth, worked in a variety of mediums, including painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking, film, poetry, and prose. While for him photography and painting were paramount, his work in early film and cinema is often overlooked.
Man Rays first experience in making film was in New York, in 1920, when he worked with Marcel Duchamp on an unsuccessful attempt to create a three-dimensional film. After moving to Paris, in 1921, his diverse experimentation in the medium of photography eventually led him back to the moving image.
The film Emak Bakia (1926), with its dreamlike distortions and tilted camera angles, veers toward Surrealism, which Man Ray had embraced, as the Dada movement dwindled. Létoile de mer (1928) features his oft-depicted muse, Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin), and André de la Rivière. Made by shooting into mirrors and through rough glass, the distorted, out-of focus images are interspersed with intertitles from an otherwise lost work by poet Robert Desnos. Through his film work, which functioned as a kinetic extension of his still photography, Man Ray became a leading exponent of Cinéma Pur, or Pure Cinema, which rejected such bourgeois conceits as character, setting, and plot. At the request of the Vicomte de Noailles, Man Ray made a film, in 1929, to document the Vicomtes art collection and château in the South of France. The longest of Man Rays films, Les Mystères du Château du Dé was not intended for public screening, and is thus a more personal film, paying homage to Stéphane Mallarmés 1897 modernist poem Un coup de dés jamais nabolira le hasard (A throw of the dice will never abolish chance). Les Mystères du château du dé follows a pair of travelers on a journey from Paris to the Villa Noailles in Hyères, which features a triangular Cubist garden designed by Gabriel Guevrekian.
In addition to these three key films, the exhibition also includes objects, drawings, and photography. Moving fluidly between media, Man Ray often made several iterations of a workphotographing it, assembling and disassembling, or making multiplesreproduction being crucial to his concept of the art object. For example, the motif of the soccer ball recurs in two discrete works, both titled Jeux Nocturnes (c. 1970), in which a functional ball is bound in a net and hung on the wall like a painting. Throughout his vast body of work, Man Ray alluded to relationships between the real and the fictive, the literal and the imaginative, with a deft mastery over the liminal territory between the abstract and the figurative form.
An introductory text for this exhibition was written by Timothy Baum, a dealer, collector, and writer specializing in Dada and Surrealism. Together with Andrew Strauss, Baum is working on a catalogue raisonné of paintings and objects by Man Ray. This exhibition was developed in collaboration with the Man Ray Trust.