There is a wonderful collection of Man Ray’s series Human Equations on Artsy, a fusion of two extremes: mathematical abstraction and human drama.
Mathematics – The Body – Shakespeare
In 1934, Man Ray was a frequent visitor at the Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris. His objective there was to photograph the Institute’s collection of three-dimensional mathematical models, which were used to illustrate the geometric properties of mathematical equations. The result was a series of iconic photographs which, by means of dramatic lighting and daring compositions, made the enigmatic mathematical models seem almost human.
In the 1940s he returned to this process, using his photographs as the basis for a series of 20 paintings. In some of these paintings he depicted the mathematical models on their own, in bright, vibrant colours; in others he would insert the models in complicated Surrealist tableaux. Augmented by titles from Shakespeare’s famous plays, these paintings added yet another ambitious layer to Man Ray’s artistic journey, which took him back and forth between two extremes: mathematical abstraction and human drama.
A drama in three acts
”Man Ray – Human Equations” is not arranged chronologically; instead, it follows a structure similar to that of three acts in a play. It shows the full artistic range and scope of Man Ray’s work, from his juvenilia to his late production, and three overarching themes focus on the material synergy between the works. 14 paintings from Shakespearean Equations series form the main axis of the show, providing a fundamental narrative about Man Ray’s fascination with universal enigmas. The paintings, photographs, and original models – on loan from Institut Henri Poincaré – offer a meeting between artistic practice and mathematical puzzles, human bodies, and drama. The three acts present the three themes as interconnected circuits: constantly overlapping, transforming, and returning to themselves. Only to enter into new circuits all over again.
Thought Passage and Mathematical Model Cabinet – be like Man Ray
The exhibition is directly linked to the Thought Passage. A space, where visitors can play chess or solve equations – with or without guidance from trained specialists. You can also try the Mathematical Model Cabinet, a feature developed especially for this exhibition: a virtual, interactive equation transformer that allows visitors to change and vary the mathematical and formal parameters of geometric figures, playing around with the shapes and forms used by May Ray.
Text via Glyptoteket