MAN RAY (1890-1976)
signed, numbered and dated '6/12 Man Ray 1944/71' (on the side) and stamped and with the indistinct maker's mark 'GEM KT 18 MR 4' (on the reverse)
pendant/brooch with malachite
Length: 4 ¼ in. (10.7 cm.)
Conceived in 1944 and executed in 1971 in a numbered edition of twelve plus one artist's proof by GEM Montebello
As with other of his Surrealist and Dadaist contemporaries, Man Ray was a multidisciplinary artist who explored using many mediums, attracted by their new possibilities. Having become known for creating intriguingly surreal objects and photographs such as his famous Solarisations, Man Ray began a creative collaboration with the the highly-skilled Italian goldsmith and his good friend GianCarlo Montebello which extended throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Many pieces of jewellery they created were based on earlier sculptural designs by the artist and their collaboration resulted in some of the most imaginative artist-made jewellery produced during this period.
Man Ray used the medium of jewellery to further explore the artistic preoccupations of his career and the stunning craftsmanship of The Oculist exemplifies this. He only produced eight pieces of jewellery between 1970 and 1976, in editions of twelve, which often included variants. These were designed as wearable sculptures and were often created as personal gifts for friends and family. The Oculist existed in its original form as a Surrealist object, conceived and executed in 1944. It was assembled from a plank of wood, doweling, string and a broken plane of glass and was exhibited at Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1945, however was later destroyed. The present lot is a variation in design from the original 1944 example, created in striking gold and malachite, and can be worn as a brooch or pendant. The distinctive eye shape dominates the composition and, combined with the title of the work, infers an inspection of sight at once looking out and being looked at. The notion of sight, perception and interpretation, what may physically be seen, as opposed to what mentally be experienced and the associated complexities of altered states of mind, were key themes of Surrealism in line with investigations into the unconscious. The Oculist is a recurrent title in Man Ray's work, as is the motif of the eye, and the present piece not only exemplifies Man Ray's play with illusion and language, but is a beautiful example of a Surrealist work of art reincarnated into an imaginative and elegant jewel.
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Private collection, Italy, acquired from Gem Montebello in 1980, and thence by descent.
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A. Schwarz, Man Ray The Rigour of Imagination, London, 1977, no. 240 (another example illustrated p. 143).
J. H. Martin, Man Ray Objets de mon affection, Paris, 1983, no. 87 (another example illustrated p. 83).
Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Jewelry As Sculpture As Jewelry, November - December 1973, no. 67 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
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