Thursday, January 21, 2010

Emmanuel Radnitzky (1890-1976)

“The Destruction of the Object” (l923) is the show-stopper in the current Man Ray show at The Jewish Museum. The artist—born Emmanuel Radnitzky—had been jilted by his lover of three years, the legendary Lee Miller, and the resulting work, fired in the crucible of his heartbreak, made art-textbook history, a little like the image of the eye ball slit by a razor in Buñuel and Dali’s Un Chien Andalou (l929).  Radnitzky photographed Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis, Proust (on his deathbed), and Joyce. But it is the image of André Breton in front of De Chirico’s “L’Enigme d’une journée” that is the show’s second most stunning piece. Blend Surrealism with Futurism and what do you get? Something curiously naturalistic, like the metronome in “The Destruction of the Object”—a time capsule sending a nostalgic message back from the past, beyond love and loss.

Radnitzky was bar mitzvahed in Brooklyn, but eventually ended up in Paris in time for Dada and Surrealism, with its infatuation with the spontaneity of the photographic image. He moved to Hollywood, and then returned to Paris at a time when New York had emerged as the center of the art world. “All NewYork is Dada and will not tolerate a rival,” he said. The current exhibit, which includes Radnitzky's first film, Le Retour à la Raison (film stock, successions of geometric images, and a nude that all defy reason), is like a message in a bottle, washed up on some silent shore after bobbing solitudinously at sea.

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