Inspired by a tightrope act he had seen in a vaudeville show, Man Ray cut pieces of colored paper into shapes corresponding to the dancer’s acrobatic movements. Dissatisfied with his work, he noticed that the discarded scraps of paper on the floor formed an abstract pattern. Comparing the accidental pattern with shadows that a dancer might have cast, he incorporated it into his composition. The figure of the tightrope dancer, the acrobat, and the circus performer in general were often adopted by artists throughout the last century in representations of movement, gravity, and the body in space.
Gallery label from On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century, November 21, 2010-February 7, 2011