Man Ray's LA: the pioneering artist in Hollywood | BLOUIN ARTINFO
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Man Ray's LA: the pioneering artist in Hollywood

Man Ray's LA: the pioneering artist in Hollywood
Man Ray with Marcel Duchamp, 1948.
(Photograph: Robert McKeever/Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS)/ADAGP, Paris 2018. Courtesy Gagosian.)

The new exhibition, "Man Ray’s LA" on view at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills sheds lights on the visual artist’s stay in Los Angeles during which he captured several famous faces. The exhibition runs through February 17, 2018.

After his two decades spanning residency in Paris, Man Ray came back to the US in the summer of 1940s. He was searching for newer experiences when one fine day in the autumn of the same year, he met a traveling tie salesman at a party in New York. When the salesman shared his plan to go for a cross-country ride to Los Angeles, Man Ray decided to catch a lift.

Los Angeles wasn’t the most probable choice for the legendary artist who was already a pioneering figure in the French capital, which also was the then world’s art capital. The curator of his show on the Gagosian Gallery, Max Teicher shared, “Most of the surrealists who left Europe during the war came to New York.” Teicher is the curator of “Man Ray’s LA,” a new exhibition featuring photography works by Man Ray, taken between 1940 and 1951. Teicher added, “Some of his best friends, [Marcel] Duchamp, [Salvador] Dalí, all went to New York. He made the very distinct decision to go to Los Angeles. He was the only one who did that.”

During this period he spent his time in Los Angeles, though the reason behind that is unclear. He was born Emmanuel Radnitzky in Philadelphia in 1890. Yet his 11 years on the west coast is probably a reminiscence of the France-like weather. “It was like some place in the south of France,” he wrote once, “with its palm-bordered streets and low stucco dwellings. Somewhat more prim, less rambling, but the same radiant sunshine.”

Not unlike the other European arrivals, he too was amazed by the popularity of motorized vehicles in LA. He often felt as if he was the only pedestrian. He shared, “I seemed to be the only one on foot, sauntering along leisurely, avoiding the more populated districts,” as he observed. “One might retire here, I thought, live and work quietly – why to go any farther?”

Though he was excited about his cinematic ambitions he didn’t start his own endeavor and the reason as Teicher explains was, “he couldn’t quite see how he could contribute. So much of the world in cinema was about working in a team, whereas when you’re working as an artist, you’re much more solitary.”

Though many celebrated artists within Hollywood, like Albert Lewin, director of The Moon and Sixpence, were interested in working with the famous surrealist yet the collaborations were not possible. "As Man Ray was very firm,” Teicher shares “If he was going to do a film, he was going to do everything: the lighting, the set design, everything. They [Hollywood insiders] looked at him like he was crazy because that’s not how Hollywood worked.”

Though he wanted to present himself as a painter, he was more celebrated for his photography. He shot both experimental and fine-art photography as well as commercial works for magazines like Vu and Harper’s Bazaar. His photographs subtly altered the way Hollywood featured its stars in the press, noted by The Guardian.