VIDEO: Man Ray at Edwynn Houk Gallery | Art Basel Miami Beach

Interview transcript

Edwynn Houk: I’m Edwynn Houk, the owner of Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York and Zurich. Probably the most significant trend that I’ve noticed in the field, is the expansion of the number of people who collect photography and much of that is coming from the collectors of Contemporary Art, more than people who would be, say exclusively collectors of photography, which had been the case for many years. And, as each year goes by, it seems more and more collectors of contemporary painting, sculpture, video, work like that, also include photography, both by people who call themselves photographers or those who simply employ photographic materials, but would just consider themselves contemporary artists. We are bringing a lot of work by living artists that the gallery represents, we are bringing quite a selection of vintage work which we’re probably best known for – it’s really the identity of the gallery. Works from Man Ray – the iconic 1930’s image of Dora Maar, to Walker Evans, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Dorothea Lange, Robert Frank…

Probably the work we are most excited about, the work we are most proud of, is the iconic image of Dora Maar done by Man Ray in the 1930’s with a surrealist inclusion of the little hands, puppet hands, doll hands underneath and it’s a very rare image. It’s one that comes from former collection of the surrealist André Breton, so it has a very significant history and background. It’s really one of the key images of Man Ray’s Paris years and within the Surrealist movement in which Man Ray was such a key figure.

Man Ray was, I think, particularly significant for pushing the boundaries in photography far beyond what it’d been been practiced before and it composes things like the photogram, which was a camera-lees image made buy painting with light or exposing photographic paper to light, either with objects that were totally opaque or semi-opaque or moving. Solarizations which would be re-exposing negatives or paper to light again during the development process or simply through the juxtaposition of composition of surrealist images just like the Dora Maar portrait. And his goal in cases like that was to take something that had meaning and resonance at a symbolic level, at a perhaps even subconscious level, that people could recognize it very hard put is to words but the English translation of Surrealism is being above reality, that something was more real than the visible world.

Dora Maar

Man Ray took a number of images of Dora Maar which is not unusual in his career that he photographed someone a few times, but he had a very, very high percentage of great images or successes with Dora Maar, so I think one can only think that there was a little bit of back and forth, that it wasn’t just her inspiration but perhaps maybe even some active participation.

I think, certainly hands are very expressive and we see it within art over the centuries, how often the are featured, they incorporated in a prominent way, that they really seem to express emotions or some inner sense. In Dora Maar’s case in particular there is the famous story how she met Picasso at the cafe at a large dinner party where Brassai was in attendance and he told me. She took a steak knife and began to outline her hand and then stab in between the fingers. Generally striking in between the fingers but very frequently hitting her fingers until they were covered in blood, and Picasso began to notice casually, that he was reverted and came to him later and said, “Who is this woman?”

Somehow it seems given that story, the significance of Picasso to her life and the prominence of the hand in the story, that it either was a part of the motivation for Man Ray or was something to do with Dora Maar herself that really inspired, suggested this image.

I hope to see you in Miami.

This article and video © galleryIntell. Images courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery.

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