Fig. 1 Les Portes Tournantes with accompanying texts by Man Ray, published in Minotaure, no. 7, 1935
Fig. 2 Man Ray, Installation view of the artist’s first retrospective held at the Pasadena Art Institute, 1944, showing the entire 1942 series of oils (Orchestra and Decanter are visible third and the sixth from the left).
"Starting from the merest indication of a motive, a succession of planes, proceeds to such an intensity of projection that a total volume of accumulated prisms (sic). Bearing withink itselfall the augmentation of the original desire, it is a hyperbolic ambition ending in the routine of wheel-mechanics."
Orchestra (lot 28) and Decanter (lot 29) are part of Man Ray’s groundbreaking series of works known under the general title Revolving Doors. The series was originally conceived as ten collages in New York in 1916-17, each composition created solely from shapes cut out from sheets of brightly-coloured “spectrum” paper of the type used for technical drawings. The shapes were pasted on a pure white background, and, with the addition of a few lines or curves in ink, formed striking compositions – at once figurative and abstract – to which he later gave poetic titles accompanied by a short text.
The ten collages grew out of the process Man Ray had employed earlier in 1916 to create his most important painting of the period, The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows (Museum of Modern Art, New York). Intent on depicting a dancer he had seen in a vaudeville show, Man Ray “began by making sketches of various positions of the acrobatic forms, each on a different sheet of spectrum-colored paper, with the idea of suggesting movement not only in the drawing but by a transition from one color to another” (Man Ray, Self Portrait, Boston & London, 1963, p. 66). Dissatisfied that the composition seemed excessively decorative, he retrieved the discarded paper cut outs. The pattern they formed appeared to him as the two-dimensional shadows cast by the dancer, and he was inspired to complete his canvas by filling the blank spaces left by the initial preparatory drawing with large areas of pure colour. The stark tonal contrasts enlivened the composition with the sense of movement he had been searching for.
The series of Revolving Doors begun the same year brought this technique to its logical conclusion. While they were originally conceived to serve as the basis for paintings, Man Ray believed the resulting collages – described by Roland Penrose as “a startling and revolutionary contribution to the art of this century” (preface to Man Ray, Revolving Doors, exhibition catalogue, Turin, Galleria Il Fauno, 1972) – to be so successful that he regarded them as complete works in their own right. As he recalled, “while these works did not have the finished and imposing quality of the oil paintings, I considered them equally important” (Man Ray, op. cit., p. 68).
The collages provided Man Ray with the means to overcome one of principal concerns of the period. Rather than resist the inherent two-dimensionality of the picture surface by rendering a three-dimensional object in an illusionistic manner, Man Ray exploited the flatness of the pasted papers to create a sense of depth through the use of secondary tones where the forms in primary colours would appear to overlap. As Man Ray described it, prefiguring his later experiments in photography: “the inevitable result is a projection into space: an equivalent of light” (Penrose, op. cit.). While the shapes may appear generally abstract, the presence of recognisable forms further reinforces, counter-intuitively, the viewer’s sense of three dimensions. With the “fanciful” titles with which they were presented to the public for the first time at the artist’s January 1919 exhibition at the Daniel Gallery in New York – The Meeting, Legend, Decanter, Shadows, Orchestra, Concrete Mixer, Dragon-fly, Mime, Jeune Fille, and Long Distance – the collages gained “a new imaginary dimension with echoes that lead beyond their visual appearance” (Penrose, op. cit.). In addition to their titles, Man Ray wrote a text to accompany each composition in the series, illuminating and bewildering in equal measure (five of the texts appeared in a journal in New York in 1919, and the entire set of ten was published for the first time in 1935, translated into French in the Surrealist journal Minotaure). The overall title of the series, Revolving Doors, was derived from the way they were first exhibited. Mounted with hinges to a stand placed at the centre of the gallery, they could be turned to be viewed in succession, one after the other, thereby adding a fourth dimension, time.
Man Ray brought the collages with him when he moved to Paris in 1921, including them in his exhibition at the Galerie Surréaliste in 1926. In the same year, the Editions Surréalistes published the collages in a limited edition set of pochoir prints (a second edition of pochoir prints was published by Luciano Anselmino in 1973). By the early 1940s, when he was living in Hollywood, with the colours of the original collages beginning to fade, Man Ray set about creating new versions: first in 1941-42 a series of watercolours, and then in 1942 the ten large-scale paintings, including Orchestra (lot 28) and Decanter (lot 29). As the medium evolved, so did the presentation conceived by Man Ray, from the rotating stand – likely unpractical for the larger and heavier paintings – to the panels joined together in the form of a screen (they were shown in this way at his first retrospective exhibition, held at the Pasadena Art Institute in 1944). As a testament to the central place they occupy in his art, Man Ray chose to include the 1942 series of oils in every important exhibition of his work organised during his lifetime.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale