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Revolving Doors I (Mime)

Originally made as a set of paper collages in 1916 and 1917, these images were reproduced as a series of pochoir prints in 1926. This image, Mime, is the first of 10 prints in the “Revolving Doors” series. The entire set was originally displayed on a hinged, revolving stand, and the movement of the prints as they were rotated on the stand created unique visual effects. Sharp transitions of color indicate movement, and overlapping shapes suggest many compressed objects within a single space.

Man Ray was born Emmanuel Radnitzky to a Jewish family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who eventually changed their last name to Ray to avoid American antisemitism. He attempted to keep his personal life divorced from his work and to resist generalization or stereotype, keeping his personal background as opaque as possible and creating work in numerous artistic media. In 1921 he moved to Paris, where he was the only American to play a major role in both the Surrealist and Dada art movements.

Ray’s refusal to be boxed in, as a Jew or as an artist, is indicative of the diversity of American Jewish life. That Ray had to leave Europe to escape Nazi persecution, shows that Jews of all levels of fame, religious observance, and nationality were vulnerable to the race-based antisemitism of the Nazis.