Monday, April 7, 2014

On photography as art | DADA *

collage, photography, art, equivalence, register, work, Max Ernst, Chinese Nightingale, photography as art
Max Ernst, Chinese Nightingale, (c. 1920, collage, on
paper, c.12x9 cm),  in
Paintings-234451. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Grenoble, France
Man Ray, painter, created photograms without a camera or pigment. His images, titled Rayographs, originated from the placement and composition of objects directly on the photosensitive medium that, after being exposed to light and processed, resulted in a photographic image of the contours, transparencies and movement of those objects. A negative image, in other words, opaque objects became white, transparencies grays, and the contours of objects further away from the surface diffuse. Ray valued the photographic image after destroying his canvases, previously photographed. He thought of painting as being obsolete.

In the case of Max Ernst, he photographed his collages(1) but did not destroy the original works which he saw as separate and distinct from the photographic print. In his Chinese Nightingale, he starts from a magazine image of an aerial bomb, placed various fragments of other photographic images (tiara, eye and arms) and the result appears as a woman reclining on grass. This composition was photographed and both - the collage and its photographic register – are works of art. This register is also proof of the unique capacity that photography has in uniting unrelated materials into a whole.

 Another DADAist, El Lissitzky, also used photographs of collages and the juxtaposition of negatives, adding graphic elements taken from widely circulated publications (magazine covers and adverts) as background.

Man Ray, through his Rayographs breaks from the conventions of perspective and pigment. These images are similar to the photographic negative and are also a negation of the established rules of photography. He valued the photograph by presenting the register of works as the final work, having destroyed the matrices - painting or collage – in other words, substituted by a reproduction. Max Ernst considered the collage and its photographic reproduction - a unifier of disparate elements – as distinct and autonomous pieces, thus placing on photography the same statute of work of art. El Lissitztky’s photomontages, via the collage of negatives and backgrounds containing mass media materials point to the modernity and multiplicity of photography.

*. See Blythe, S, e Powers, E, Looking at DADA, 2006, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, chapter 9. Paper originally presented in "Photography and Realism in the 30's" course taught by Professor Margarida Acciaiuoli, Art History (contemporary) at FCSH of Universidade Nova de Lisboa.
Original: 2007/10/11.

1. Physical or plastic union of elements

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