An express interview with Christine Tommerup, Curatorial Assistant of ‘Man Ray – Human Equations: A Journey from Mathematics to Shakespeare’ exhibition at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Man Ray – Human Equations: A Journey from Mathematics to Shakespeare Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen 11 June – 20 September, 2015
Provocative, self-promoting and visionary, Man Ray (1890-1976) is among the 20th century’s absolute heavyweights. As an artist he was born into the early European avant-garde. He left a distinct mark on both Dadaism and Surrealism and quickly assumed the position of a pioneer in modern photography. The summer’s major exhibition expands museums notion of Man Ray and presents an unorthodox artist who goes far beyond the boundaries of the established categories in the history of art.
2013 saw the first major museum retrospective of Man Ray's works go on view in London. What does the new exhibition at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, equally large in terms of volume, reveal to us?
Man Ray – Human Equations is the first exhibition to examine the renowned Dada and Surrealist artist Man Ray through an interdisciplinary study of his Shakespearean Equations, a series of paintings he considered the pinnacle of his creative vision. The exhibition reunites these paintings for the first time since their initial exhibition in 1948, alongside the original three-dimensional mathematical models from Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris and Man Ray’s photographs of them.
The exhibition brings together all three components – paintings, objects, photographs – for an in-depth study, providing a new perspective on Man Ray’s methodical experiments. Furthermore, it displays the fact that he did not distinguish or favor any specific media.
In addition to this, the exhibition displays a number of highlights from Man Ray’s career which can be seen as precursors to series or derived from the themes, techniques or methods used in Shakespearean Equations.
Why do you feel that now is the right time to show Ray's works in Copenhagen?
The exhibition fits Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek’s overall aim to explore the classical ideals and Modernist methods as an investigation into the genesis of modern art. Man Ray – Human Equations continues a line of exhibitions at the Glyptotek which has dealt with artists’ methods and techniques, such as Degas' Method (2013), which focused on the complex relationship of modern art with nature and reality.
With its exceptional collection of both classical and French sculptures, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is a venue that provides a unique context for Man Ray’s Surrealist commentary on the classical ideals of beauty.
The exhibition has been co-organised by The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., and the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Tell us more about the commitment of both institutions to the artist! In what way is Man Ray represented in their collections?
As a contribution to this multidisciplinary exhibition, the Phillips Collection and The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, have assembled a team of different experts, from mathematicians to Shakespearean scholars, who helped by adding different perspectives and new approaches to Man Ray’s art.
The collaboration also enabled unique loans - some rarely displayed - from both private collectors and museums, including four Rayographs from the Glyptotek’s own collection, as well as works such as Main Ray (1935), Obstruction (1920) and the iconic photograph Noire et blanche (1926) from the Israel Museum.
Could you describe the exhibition’s visual layout?
In keeping with the artist’s playful approach to experiments in the Shakespearean Equations, the exhibition is divided into acts that investigate recurrent themes and forms in Man Ray’s work while mixing media, time and materials.
Each room is painted in a different color, underlining the change of acts and scenes and highlighting the different formal aspects of the works displayed.
How would you characterize the overall feeling/atmosphere of the show?
Transforming the objects and creating a surprising encounter between art, mathematics and Shakespeare, the exhibition displays Man Ray’s playful, ironic and humoristic approach to art.