Man Ray, Cocteau and Tzara with spiral, (1926)
Man Ray, Jean Cocteau By the year 1922, Man Ray had begun to use his own works of art as props within his portrait photographs. The strategy of the prop within these two types of image - portrait and fashion – was shared. In his 1922 double portrait of Tristan Tzara and Jean Cocteau, the two sitters, draped in black fabric so the only their decontextualized faces would show, with Man Ray’s sculpture Lampshade snaking it’s way from Cocteau’s chin to Tzara’s head below.
As a prop, Man Ray’s sculpture decoratively frames the sitter’s heads, but it also takes on a set of functions, as aggressively as did Maiatra. Linking Cocteau to Tzara, the prop creates a new form of the collective or group portrait, acting like the diagrammatic lines that connected words and images in the Dada mechanomorph. Simultaneously, Man Ray’s prop suggest not just a diagram, but the cut or slice of motage or montage, but also presenting an image staged as if Tzara’s and Cocteau’s heads had been decapitated, or were about to be, like the menacing hatchet that the photographer would use in one of his earlier portraits of Tzara. The prop both links and displaces simultaneously, transforming the status of the art object and the self-contained image of the (her threatened) subject. An operation tied to the prop’s more general transformation from object into image. The work of an art’s role in defining Man Ray’s portrait images and his fashion photographs.