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Chance Creations: Collage, Photomontage, and Assemblage

Explore three Dada methods that left it (mostly) to chance.


The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky)
(American, 1890–1976)

1916. Oil on canvas, 52" x 6' 1 3/8" (132.1 x 186.4 cm)

Though executed entirely in oil paint, The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows grew out of Man Ray’s numerous collage experiments. The work’s original composition was inspired by the view of a tightrope dancer in a vaudeville performance. Back in his studio, Man Ray cut colored paper into shapes resembling his memory of the dancer’s acrobatic movements but, dissatisfied with what he had done, he discarded the scraps on the floor. Glancing down, he noticed that by chance they had formed an abstract pattern. Comparing the accidental pattern with shadows that a dancer might have cast, he incorporated it into his composition.

The dancer is outlined in grey and white at the top of the canvas, her legs and fluttering skirt shown in various positions simultaneously. Similarly, Man Ray depicts the tightrope six ways; each line swinging out from her feet atop the large planes of color, which represent the “shadows” cast by her figure.

A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent.

The form or condition in which an object exists or appears.

A series of events, objects, or compositional elements that repeat in a predictable manner.

A long mark or stroke.

 The arrangement of the elements within a work of art photograph. The composition is the interplay between the subject, foreground, background, and other elements in the photograph.

The technique and resulting work of art in which fragments of paper and other materials are arranged and glued to a supporting surface.