Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky)
1890, Philadelphia - 1976, Paris
Assemblage: plaster cast and rope
71 x 41 x 28 cm
Gift of Mary and Jose Mugrabi, New York, to American Friends of the Israel Museum
© ADAGP, Paris/Man Ray Trust, Paris
Accession number: B03.0687
Man Ray, painter, photographer, and creator of assemblage-objects—played a prominent role in the launching of Dada and Surrealism. At Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery 291 in New York, Man Ray was introduced to contemporary European art, which he had seen at the influential Armory Show. In 1915 he met Marcel Duchamp, and after collaborating with him on New York Dada in 1921, Man Ray moved to Paris and became part of André Breton’s circle. As a portrait and fashion photographer, he pioneered new photographic techniques, such as rayographs and solarizations.
Like many other male Surrealist artists, Man Ray exalted love and saw Woman as an inspirational muse. In their art, however, these men tended to objectify women and define them as subordinate. As targets of male desire, women were the subjects of disturbing fantasies and erotic violence. In Venus Restored, a plaster cast of a headless Venus is tightly bound in ropes. Nevertheless, the image does not evoke total female submission. Man Ray’s “restoration” preserves the classical, eternally perfect sculpture, while expressing erotic fantasy, similar to that seen in his Undomesticated Virgin of 1964. The binding ropes of Venus Restored recall Man Ray’s earlier Enigma of Isidore Ducasse (1920), a wrapped and tied sewing machine, paying homage to the dictum of the poet Lautréament: “beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table.” Man Ray’s mysteriously bound objects inspired later twentieth-century artists, such as the environmental artist Christo.