Man Ray and Fashion (Momu Fashion Museum)
Romy Cockx, Kaat Debo, Alain Sayag, Emmanuelle de L'Écotais
Momu Fashion Museum & Stockmans Art Books, 2023
Man Ray (1890-1976) was a widely versatile artist who worked with a range of different media and did not like to be pigeonholed. Fashion as such did not seem to be a particular interest of his, but dressmaking was part of his youth and photographing fashion played a crucial role throughout his career. The way he portrayed women and their clothing continues to influence fashion photographers today. Man Ray used new and unexpected angles, employed artistic staging, and applied such innovative processes as solarization and multiple exposure to his fashion photography. In recent decades, fashion designers continue to find inspiration in his Surrealist imagery. This is most notably true for Belgian designers, with their avant-garde mindset. Completely in line with the concept of Surrealism, these references are often subconscious. The first reference to Man Ray in Belgian fashion, however, was in fact explicit and can be placed squarely at the entrance of the Brussels-based Norine couture house.
Fashion not only provided an income and international recognition for Man Ray but also influenced his visual language. That vocabulary had been nurtured from an early age by dressmaking attributes that must un-avoidably carry more meaning for a tailor’s son than for someone else. His images of mannequins and fragmented body parts were consistent with the visual language of the Surrealists, and were, under the influence of his fashion photography, not only uncanny but also aesthetically appealing. His visual art and his commercial photography were not separate from one another, and he was moreover one of the first Surrealist artists to recognize the artistic as well as the commercial potential of mass media.