Even amongst those who know little of art, there are probably very few people who haven’t heard the name Man Ray. Man Ray lived his life between America and France – to both escape the ravages of war, and to seek a suitable artistic environment in which to work. In his later years, he made Paris his home and went on to gain true international recognition as an artist. Man Ray is best known for his photography, but in ‘Man Ray: Unconcerned But Not Indifferent’, the National Art Centre, Tokyo will exhibit many works which demonstrate the great range of his artistic output, including paintings and sculpture.
In his youth, Man Ray started by making his living as a commercial photographer, while also working towards his dream of success as an artist. Before long he developed his own characteristic style of expression using specialist photographic techniques, like his ‘rayograph’ photograms and solarisation. His work attracted high praise from both the Dada and Surrealist movements, but Man Ray himself aligned himself with neither group. For Man Ray, the concepts behind creative work were more important than the means of expression.
Having made a three dimensional work, Man Ray would make a record of it by photographing it. Having taken a work apart after shooting it, he was known to remake and duplicate it using the same motifs over and over again. Using the sense and techniques of design he most likely developed in his early experiences working in advertising graphics and design, there is a beautiful elegance in the expression of Man Ray’s work. It is this refinement that has led him to be so much more well-known than his Dadaist and Surrealist contemporaries, and which has made his works more broadly accepted.
Even if you see one of the works on display and think it’s a little difficult to understand, there’s no inherent need to think too deeply about it. Man Ray’s very appeal lies in the fact that you can enjoy his art by simply immersing yourself in its ever universal beauty.