Alphabet pour adultes

Man Ray (1890-1976) Alphabet pour adultes (Paris: Éditions Pierre Belfond, 1970). Copy no. XVI of XXX hor commerce. 37 lithographs and one signed rayograph. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize ND237.R19 A46 1970f

Man Ray painted his first letter “Y” in 1923 as an homage to his friend Yves Tanguy. Even earlier, he contemplated creating an alphabet of Rayographs (photograms) but gave up the idea as too lengthy.

He eventually realized his project in 1947 in two entirely different versions. Alphabet was published by the Copley Galleries, Beverly Hills in 1948 and Analphabet was presented to a California collector around the same time. This second series of letters was published by Timothy Baum for Nadada Edition in 1974.

In 1970, at the age of 80, Man Ray completed a French edition, entitled Alphabets pour Adultes, seen here. The artist wrote, “A letter always suggests a word, and a word always suggests a book. There are words that are for every day use and there are words reserved for the more special occasions, for poetry … To make a new alphabet of the discarded props of a conversation can lead only to fresh discoveries in language.”