Man Ray at Gagosian

The Mysteries of Château du Dé, is the title of the new exhibition presented at Gagosian in San Francisco.  Staged from 14 January to February 29, 2020 the exhibition centres on American visual artist and icon Man Ray. The show was developed in collaboration with the Man Ray Trust.

In addition to three key films, the exhibition also features archival material, objects, drawings, and photography. Moving fluidly between media, Man Ray often made several iterations of a work—photographing it, assembling and disassembling, or making multiples—reproduction being crucial to his concept of the art object. For example, the motif of the soccer ball recurs in two discrete works, both titled Jeux Nocturnes (c. 1970), in which a functional ball is bound in a net and hung on the wall like a painting. Throughout his vast body of work, Man Ray alluded to relationships between the real and the fictive, the literal and the imaginative, with a deft mastery over the liminal territory between the abstract and the figurative form.

Man Ray’s first experience in making film was in New York, in 1920, when he worked with Marcel Duchamp on an unsuccessful attempt to create a three-dimensional film.

Highlights include L’étoile de mer (1928) which features Man Ray’s oft-depicted muse, Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin), and André de la Rivière. Made by shooting into mirrors and through rough glass, the distorted, out-of focus images are interspersed with intertitles from an otherwise lost work by poet Robert Desnos. Through his film work, which functioned as a kinetic extension of his still photography, Man Ray became a leading exponent of Cinéma Pur, or “Pure Cinema,” which rejected such “bourgeois” conceits as character, setting, and plot. At the request of the Vicomte de Noailles, Man Ray made a film, in 1929, to document the Vicomte’s art collection and château in the South of France. The longest of Man Ray’s films, Les Mystères du Château du Dé was not intended for public screening, and is thus a more personal film, paying homage to Stéphane Mallarmé’s 1887 modernist poem “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard” (A throw of the dice will never abolish chance). Les Mystères du château du dé follows a pair of travelers on a journey from Paris to the Villa Noailles in Hyères, which features a triangular Cubist garden designed by Gabriel Guevrekian.