Curated by: Walter Guadagnini, Giangavino Pazzola
“Only from Man Ray could we expect the Ballad of Women of the Present Day,” wrote André Breton with regard to the female portraits by the genius born in Philadelphia in 1890, who arrived in Paris in 1921 and there became the outright protagonist of the seasons of Dadaism and then Surrealism.
From 17 October 2019 to 19 January 2020, CAMERA – Centro Italiano per la Fotografia pays tribute to the great master with the exhibition "(wo) MAN RAY. Le seduzioni della fotografia", featuring around two hundred photographs produced from the 1920s right up to his death (1976), all dedicated to a specific subject: the woman, primary source of inspiration of all his poetics, here in photographic form.
The exhibition presents some of the images that wrote the history of 20th-century photography and which became part of the collective imagination thanks to Man Ray’s ability to reinvent not only the photographic language, but also the representation of the body and the face and even genres such as the nude and the portrait through his rayographs, solarisations and double exposures. The female body is subjected to a continuous metamorphosis of shapes and meanings, becoming from time to time an abstract form, object of seduction, a classic memory, a realist portrait, in an extraordinary – playful and highly refined – reflection on the time and forms of representation, through photography and not only. Assistants, inspirational muses and accomplices in various steps of this intellectual and life adventure, there were figures such as Lee Miller, Berenice Abbott, Dora Maar, with the constant, inescapable presence of Juliet: his lifelong companion who appears in some of the most amusing and significant images in the show. But in turn, these women were also great artists, and the exhibition will also focus on this aspect with works by them – mostly from the 1930s and ’40s: i.e. the period in which they were most directly in contact with Man Ray and with the Dadaist and Surrealist avant-garde environment of Paris.
As so we have the splendid portraits of the protagonists of that season by Berenice Abbott, the estranging visions of everyday life of Lee Miller and Dora Maar. Representing the work of Berenice Abbott, the exhibition will display her portraits shot between 1926 and 1938 in Paris and New York – the avant-garde art capitals of the first half of the 20th century – such as the iconic images of Eugene Atget and James Joyce. Dora Maar – to whom, with simultaneous exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou and the Tate Modern, the first major worldwide appraisal will be dedicated – will be featured with works attributable to the language of street and landscape photography such as Gamin aux Chaussures Dépareillés (1933).
The study of the female body will be the fulcrum of the work of Lee Miller, with numerous self-portraits and nudes of male and female models who worked with her both in the fields of research photography and fashion. Thus a unique exhibition, thanks both to the quality of the photographs displayed and the innovative approach to the biographical and artistic coupling of the protagonists of these chapters. A wide repertory of images available to the public is made possible thanks to the collaboration with numerous national and international institutions and galleries, from the CSAC in Parma to the ASAC in Venice, and from the Lee Miller Archive in Sussex to the Mast di Bologna. Institutions that – as much with their loans as with their academic knowledge – have contributed to making this as exhaustive as possible a study of one of the most innovative periods of the 20th century, with genuine masterpieces of the photographic art such as the Electricitè portfolios (1931) and the extremely rare Les mannequins. Résurrection des mannequins (1938), sole testimony to one of the crucial events in the history of Surrealism and to the exhibition practices of the 20th century: the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme in Paris, 1938.
Curated by Walter Guadagnini and Giangavino Pazzola, the exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue containing reproductions of the works on display, essays by the curators and other scholars, as well as key bibliographical notes.