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PRINT May 1982

MAN RAY’S EARLY PAINTINGS 1913–1916: THEORY AND PRACTICE IN THE ART OF TWO DIMENSIONS

He who resolves never to ransack any mind but his own, will soon be reduced, from mere barrenness, to the poorest of all imitations; he will be obliged to imitate himself, and to repeat what he has before often repeated.

—Sir Joshua Reynolds, Discourse

to Students of the Royal Academy,

December 10, 1774

SEVERAL RECENT ATTEMPTS TO ASSES Man Ray’s contribution to American Modernism in the period immediately following the Armory Show of 1913 have found his work “derivative,” “provincial,” “minor,” and “lacking in creativity.” “At his worst,” one historian concluded, “Ray was a second rate imitator of Duchamp.” Unfortunately, such superficial assessments have been particularly detrimental to Man Ray’s reputation, for they have inadvertently overshadowed any serious consideration of the artist’s primary achievements during the years 1913–16: his Cubist-inspired paintings and semiabstract

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