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Upon the outbreak of war in 1940, Man Ray fled Paris and returned to the USA after nearly twenty years away. Drawn after he had settled in California, At the Exhibition embodies many of the sentiments which initially fired the Dada movement and inspired Man Ray to join Marcel Duchamp in France all those years ago.(1) The anti-art movement ‘Dadaism’ reacted against the bourgeois art ideals which Man Ray satirises in this drawing. The Dada group rejected laws of beauty and social organization. Like Duchamp, Man Ray based his art on principles of deliberate irrationality, anarchy and cynicism.
Man Ray was the son of poor Russian immigrants who was born in Philadelphia and had moved to Brooklyn at the age of seven. In Paris Man Ray immersed himself in the ideals of Dadaism and his photography came to play an important role in the Parisian art movement. Although he had first bought a camera in 1915 to document his paintings, he now wanted to become a professional portrait photographer. Some of his very first sitters were his Parisian Surrealist and Dadaist friends, such as Cocteau and Duchamp. This work soon led to commissions and those who wanted a cutting-edge photographic portrait sought out Man Ray's talents and originality. In the 1930's, Man Ray became the official photographer of the Surrealist movement and began to receive assignments for several prominent magazines, including Vogue. His cutting-edge techniques of solarization and Rayography became highly desirable in the fashion photography world. After his spell in America during the war, in 1951, Man Ray and his wife returned to Paris where he continued to work creating paintings, photographs and objects until his death.
1. Man Ray met Duchamp in an artist colony in Ridgefield, New Jersey.
Estate of Juliet Man Ray to 1995