Man Ray: Noire et Blanche, 1926
Kiki is placed with her naked torso next to a wooden Baulé mask from the Ivory Coast. Her head is placed on a white surface, which is why her naked body can only be seen in hints. She also holds the mask in her hand in such a way that it covers her shoulders. The most attention is drawn to Kiki's face, which captivates with its gently closed eyes, the delicate eyebrows and the typical made-up lips. It is noticeable that her face shows many similarities to the mask in her hand. The mask, which is placed on the surface, has narrow eyes and delicate brows just like Kiki. Certainly Kiki showed similarities from the beginning, but it is also evident that Man Ray intensified these. He covered her eyes and eyebrows with makeup and applied it back to her hair to make it more consistent with the mask. However, there are also serious differences. Not only the position, but especially the skin colour is a contrast. While Kiki has an almost ivory-coloured skin, the mask is made of dark ebony-like wood.
These similarities and differences leave various possibilities of interpretation. On the one hand, Man Ray could have supported the spirit of the times by thematizing the contrasts between object and human being, vertically and horizontally, but above all Europe and Africa or black and white. If his aim was to emphasize differences between dark-skinned and white people or their cultures, he did so at least not in a defamatory way. The fact that Kiki was staged in clear similarity to the mask could, however, also have the intention to show the similarities of the supposedly foreign cultures...
What do you think?
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