New York

Man Ray


Man Ray groups a number of his best-known vintage Surreal and Dada objects with some very recent collages and constructions, revealing the artist still very much at the top of his irreverent form. Largely sight gags in concrete form, the pieces range from the menacing “Object of Destruction” to the deadpan wit of “Architexture: Tip Your Hat.” Man Ray’s objects have always attested to his ingratiating gift for unlikely juxtapositions. The classic “Cadeau” (a flatiron with its working face vertically bisected by a row of nails pointing out) epitomizes the perceptual disorientation at the root of these visual paradoxes. This piece forces a collision between one’s recognition of the object in terms of its functional identity and perception of its form as a spiky negation of that function. A truly painful image, it is as irritatingly useless as most gifts. This capacity of Man Ray’s to be genuinely disquieting within the treacherous assemblage form provides the necessary balance to the humor of other pieces. Without the dark side of the mirror there might be only whimsy. Among the best of the recent collages, “Serious Man” (a self-portrait) is a personage as eerily animated as the best Dubuffets. Deftness and ease of invention throughout all the works bespeak a sensibility attuned to the evocative and associative capacity of objects on the most subtle levels. Once perceived, these pieces have the obvious rightness of all self-evident truths. Multiple puns, visual and verbal, unfailingly set ringing the little bell Gertrude Stein used to hear when she knew something was right. “Striking Things” (a clock, anvil, and hammer) projects such plural meanings so clearly that all protestations of “Nonsense!” are swept aside by rejoinders of “Of course!” Man Ray makes the point freshly throughout the varied wackiness of the entire exhibition.

Dennis Adrian