Man Ray’s Shakespearean Equations-a series of paintings he considered to be the pinnacle of his creative vision-has long been a puzzle of Surrealism. What meaningful common thread could possibly link Shakespeare, mathematics and art? This volume sets out to unravel the puzzle by beginning with photographs of mathematical models that Man Ray took at the Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris in the 1930s. It then charts the artist’s development along a path that culminates with the Shakespearean Equations, a series of oil paintings he made in Hollywood more than a decade later, inspired by that earlier photographic work. The canvases build a bridge from painting back to photography and reveal the ease with which Man Ray moved between various disciplines and forged his own path. An inveterate experimenter, he pioneered artistic activities in the realms of painting, object making, film and photography, challenging conventional boundaries and blurring established aesthetic categories.
Man Ray was born Emmanuel Radnitzky in Philadelphia in 1890 and grew up in New York, where he studied art at the National Academy of Design and the Ferrer School. A nomadic soul like his lifelong friend Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray relocated many times throughout his life, worked in many media and likewise stopped short of officially joining the ranks of either Dada or Surrealism, though he was informally close to both movements. Participating in the most groundbreaking formal experiments of the Western modernist avant-garde, Man Ray made Cubist paintings, readymades, camera-less photographs and nonnarrative films (among many other things). He died in 1976 and was buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris. His epitaph reads: “unconcerned, but not indifferent.”