Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Man Ray's "Human Equations"

     Art lovers in Washington, DC have the opportunity (until 5/10/15) to see, on exhibit at The Phillips Collection, "Man Ray -- Human Equations: A Journey from Mathematics to Shakespeare." I visited the exhibit on February 19 on the occasion of a poetry reading by Rae Armantrout -- she presented work of hers that she felt captured the spirit of Man Ray's work.  (Bucknell poet Karl Patten, whom I had as a poetry teacher years ago, insisted that "Every Thing Connects" and, indeed, this is the title of one of the poems in Patten's collection The Impossible Reaches.  Both of these phrases that became titles for Patten seem also to describe Man Ray's and Armantrout's work:  they have taken seemingly disparate objects and reached across seemingly impossible gaps to relate them.  As often happens in mathematics.)   
     Included in the exhibit are Man Ray's photos (from the 1930s) of models at the Poincare Institute in Paris as well as some of the actual models (on loan).  (A file of recent photos from the Institute is available at this link.)  For Man Ray (1890-1976) -- as with many artists, poets, and mathematicians -- the passing of time offers new associations for old objects.  And Man Ray arranged the geometric objects of his earlier photographic interest into groups that led to paintings that he linked with Shakespeare's plays.  An art-blog by Alain R. Truong offers some photos and commentary that give a taste of the exhibit.  If you have the opportunity to SEE it for yourself, by all means do so.  It is A LOT OF FUN.
     To conclude, here are the opening lines of a poem by Rae Armantrout.  Go to Poets.org for the full poem and for others by this fine California poet.

       Two, Three       by Rae Armantrout

       Sad, fat boy in pirate hat.
       Long, old, dented,
       copper-colored Ford.

       How many traits
       must a thing have

       in order to be singular?
       . . .

Additional poems by Armantrout are available at PoetryFoundation.org.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic! I'd only seen bits of this, never all together. Sadly not getting to DC, though...