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Man Ray's Paris Years

Peggy Guggenheim by Man Ray Man Ray/Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery hide caption

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Man Ray/Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery

Peggy Guggenheim by Man Ray

Man Ray/Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery

Man Ray was born in 1890 to Russian Jewish immigrants in Philadelphia, and was raised in Brooklyn's Williamsburg, which was assuredly a lot less hip back then. But he must have been before his time, because he was still friends with some of the hippest — or at least interesting — people of that era. After graduating from art school, for example, he moved to New York City and met artist Marcel Duchamp. That friendship marked the beginning of his long, influential and often weird career.

Ray made experimental fashion photographs for Harper's Bazaar and Vanity Fair, but is most often associated with the Surrealist, Dada and avant-garde art movements. And it was in Paris that his career took off. There he met Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and countless other collaborators.

Although he was forced to leave during World War II, "his happiest and most productive years were spent in Paris," reads a news release from Edwynn Houk Gallery; a selection of Ray's photographs from those Paris years are now on display at the gallery in New York City.

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The photos, though sometimes gritty or abstract, show Ray's knack for experimentation. He played with what he called "rayographs," or photograms; he honed the effect of solarization; he made provocative photos and photo collages of women. Ray and his contemporaries had a huge impact on the art world. In fact, they pretty much owned it. Check out this PBS special to learn more.