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06-05-2007
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Joseph Cornell - Artist / Sculptor
I can't believe we didn't have a thread on him!. He is truly amazing, I saw the most wonderful show of his work at the Peabody Essex Museum today .

Quote:
Originally Posted by wikipedia
Joseph Cornell, (born December 24, 1903 – died December 29, 1972) was an American artist and sculptor, one of the pioneers and most celebrated exponents of assemblage. Influenced by the Surrealists, he was also an avant garde experimental filmmaker. He lived in New York City for most of his life, in a wooden frame house on Utopia Parkway in a working-class area of Queens. He lived there with his mother and his brother, Robert, who was disabled by cerebral palsy.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peabody Essex Museum
American artist Joseph Cornell (1903–1972) has been celebrated internationally for his boxes, collages, and films since the 1930s. His mining of far-flung ideas and traditions and elegant integration of woodworking, painting, papering, and drawing define the innovation and visual poetry associated with his work. Above all, he forever altered the concept of the box—from a time-honored functional container into a new art form, the box construction.

Although Cornell’s exploration of art, culture, and science was highly personal, even spiritual, his goal as an artist was to inspire others to pursue uplifting voyages into the imagination. This exhibition is organized thematically to suggest his understanding of the imagination as an echo chamber where possibilities and connections can be discovered through subtle repetition and variation. Each thematic section mingles the series, media, and time frames in which he worked.

His lyrical, often surprising combinations of materials and ideas are usually associated with surrealism, a European art movement that emphasized dreams and poetic dislocation in the 1920s and 1930s. Surrealism, however, was just one of many resources that Cornell called upon as an artist driven by innate curiosity and creativity rather than by theories and formal art training.

He often described himself as a maker because he valued his “natural” and “spontaneous” origins as an artist. Making something new from nothing or the pre-existing is critical to the processes of many self-taught artists. It is also central to the modern concept of creativity as the collision and recombination of ideas. Traditions can be reinterpreted; connections can be forged between the seemingly random or disparate. Cornell believed that artists renew and transform materials, experiences, and ideas, and this belief fueled his ability to communicate the beauty and magic in ordinary, often forgotten things.
What I love most about Cornell's work is how playful it appears to be when in fact it is full of so many various themes... all about the intersection of imagination with science, math, romace and culture. Included in his work are a lot of texts from astrology, math and science books as well as film stills of movie stars (Lauren Bacall for one) and pictures of ballerinas.

Some of his work:

Untitled (Soap Bubble Set)
1936


Defense d'Afficher
Object
1939


Untitled (The Hotel Eden)
c. 1945


Untitled (Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall)
1945-46


Cassiopeia #1
1960
artchive

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07-05-2007
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Untitled (Tilly Losch), 1935-38


L'Egypte de Mlle Cleo de Merode Cours Elementaire d'Histoire Naturelle
1940

nytimes,artnet

Review of show at the Peabody Essex from Boston Globe:

Quote:
From small boxes big things come
In fascinating Cornell retrospective, a yearning for what lies beyond the frame
By Ken Johnson, Globe Staff | April 29, 2007
In "Toward the Blue Pen insula (for Emily Dickinson )," one of Joseph Cornell's most mysteriously poignant works, an antique wooden box encloses a white interior resembling an empty birdcage. A wire grid encloses an area toward the rear where a small window built into the back wall of the box frames a view of blue sky. In the place where the grid overlays the window, the wire has been cut and folded back, creating an opening through which, it would seem, the bird that once lived here has escaped into the wild blue yonder.

That poetic play between containment and escape runs throughout "Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination," a beguilingly beautiful exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum. Organized by Cornell expert and chief Peabody Essex curator Lynda Roscoe Hartigan , the exhibition presents some 180 works by Cornell, including many of the box sculptures for which he is best known, as well as collages and films. The first Cornell retrospective in 26 years, it is a deeply absorbing and touching show.

The attractions of Cornell's art are immediate. Though self-taught, he had a keen, often playful sense of design, a wonderfully sensuous way with materials, and a poet's feel for the metaphorical possibilities of ordinary objects. His intimate, antique wooden boxes neatly stocked with little mementos and flea-market oddities are dreamily evocative even if it's hard to say what they mean.

But Cornell was doing more than just creating amusing little curiosity cabinets. He was grappling with certain fundamental tensions in his own psyche, and that is what gives his art its compelling expressive urgency.

Many works are clearly driven by longing for romantic connection. "Untitled (Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall )," one of many pieces dedicated to beautiful female entertainers, is a kind of shrine to unattainable desire. Framed behind glass at the center of a box built to resemble an antique arcade game, a closely cropped publicity photograph of the sultry young actress seems like an image of a goddess whom no earthly mortal could ever touch.

Often the tension is metaphysical. In the box construction "Untitled (Cockatoo With Watch Faces)," the cut out of a white bird surrounded by a grid of white watch faces suggests the soul hemmed in by the empirical facts of time and space. The box itself, which Cornell gave an old and weathered appearance, enhances the sense of time and agedness -- a melancholy feeling of earthbound existence -- while the bird suggests the possibility of imaginative flight into that realm of ecstatic eternity about which Dickinson wrote with such cryptic eloquence.

Cornell in fact led an unusually confined life. He supported and lived with his mother and his brother, who had cerebral palsy, in a small, working-class house in Flushing, N.Y. He was a devout Christian Scientist, and he rarely traveled beyond Manhattan, where he regularly browsed second-hand stores and thrift shops to find materials for his art. It is assumed that when he died in 1972 he was a virgin.

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show review, continued

Quote:
Cornell was not a complete re- cluse. He corresponded widely and forged a successful career in the New York avant-garde art world. Only a year after producing his first collages in 1931, he was included in a historic exhibition called "Surré alism" at the legendary Julien Levy Gallery . He went on to exhibit at the Egan Gallery, which also showed art by Willem de Kooning , Mark Rothko , and other Abstract Expressionists, and later, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg . He lived to see his works included in "New York Painting and Sculpture, 1940-1970," the landmark exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that Henry Geldzahler curated.

Nevertheless, the feeling one gets with Cornell is that being boxed in -- whether by familial circumstances or by neurotic shyness -- is what led to the cultivation of an extraordinarily lively and adventurous inner life. He didn't think outside the box; rather, he thought deeper into the box by transforming its interior into a space of infinitely elastic possibility. Every box sculpture he made represents the triumph of a wide-ranging imaginative vision over the deadening captivity of external, terrestrial existence.
Hartigan's organization of the exhibition according to recurring themes in Cornell's work helps to show just how remarkably various were the artist's interests. Renaissance painting, modern art, ornithology, astronomy, architecture, the history of ballet: Cornell's boxes contain an almost encyclopedi c range of subjects. Yet one never gets the sense of pedantic scholarship in Cornell. Every image and object -- from nude starlets to antique star charts -- takes on a mystical animation.

What is also impressive is how inventively he played with style and form. Some boxes resemble Catholic Church icons. Another, dedicated to the 1930s Hollywood actress Tilly Losch, depicts a girl held aloft by the strings of a hot-air balloon or parachute floating above an alpine landscape; it looks like a decorative confection produced by an ingenious, Victorian-era amateur. A set of early collages made by gluing together scraps of old engravings dedicated to the Surrealist Max Ernst could easily be mistaken for the work of Ernst himself. And a box in which each little compartment of a white gridded structure is occupied by a white wooden cube anticipates the gridded sculptures of Sol LeWitt and other minimalist artists of the '60s.

Cornell's raw materials are fascinating to study. The boxes themselves are wonderfully diverse. They range from lovingly finished small cabinets with multiple drawers to little cardboard containers for children's toys. Cornell did not build his own boxes -- they're all found or purchased objects -- but each gives the impression it was crafted with exacting care.

The objects he put into the boxes are equally remarkable: wooden and rubber balls, marbles, white clay soap-bubble pipes, feathers, costume jewelry, miniature bottles and wine glasses, seashells, dolls, watch springs, children's blocks, images of birds and butterflies clipped from books and magazines, and much more. Each object has its own vividly physical presence, and yet at the same time each is transformed into a numinous image within Cornell's long-running psychic theater. The recurring thrill in Cornell is that leap from the material immediacy of the box and its contents to the immaterial plane of visionary fantasy.

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end of article

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One aspect of Cornell's work that is not often mentioned is its sly sense of humor. See, for example, "Pantry Ballet ( for Jacques Offenbach )," a horizontal box occupied by a lineup of little plastic lobsters, each with a gauze tutu wrapped around its tail. Often it is humor that saves works that would otherwise be viewed as absurdly sentimental. In a collage dedicated to the ballerina Tamara Toumanova , the dancer appears swimming in a luminously colorful, submarine wonderland amongst goldfish and exotic underwater plants. Cornell's worshipful homage seems genuinely felt, yet the kitschy, over-the-top luxuriance of the picture suggests that he might be having a bit of fun with his own extreme romanticism.

Still, the mood that mostly prevails in Cornell's work is ultimately one of unrequited yearning for something beyond the limits of the box. One of the most abstract and most powerful of his box sculptures is "Untitled (Window Facade)" from 1951, which presents a grid of window mullions heavily coated by white paint with a mirror covering the box's rear wall. It is a strangely desolate tableau, in which an inner image of infinite depth is only the sterile, illusory reflection of a cheap mirror. For all he was able to create imaginatively, there is an underlying feeling of loneliness and wishing for more contact with real life.

People who know Cornell only for his boxes and collages may be surprised and intrigued to discover that he also produced short experimental movies. He didn't actually shoot films himself, but he cut up and re-spliced old commercial films into disjunctive montages. In later years, he worked with professional filmmakers who would shoot footage that he would edit into his own works.

The films are mesmerizing. For "Rose Hobart ," a blue-tinted silent film accompanied by music, Cornell edited out every scene from a 1931 jungle movie called "East of Borneo" that does not feature its starring actress Rose Hobart. The result is comical yet strangely voyeuristic, as though Cornell were an obsessed stalker.

Something similar happens in "A Legend for Fountains," (1957-1965) in which the camera (operated by filmmaker Rudy Burckhardt ) silently follows a pretty young woman carrying a cat as she wanders around the city, pausing for long, close-up studies of her face. As in many of Cornell's boxes, one senses an unquenchable longing not just for this particular earthly woman but for something she seems to represent: the possibility of escape from the spiritual flatness of the mundane modern world into a semi-divine realm of erotic transfiguration.

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07-05-2007
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One of his muses was ballerina Tamara Toumanova.


Untitled (Celestial Fantasy with Tamara Toumanova)
early 1940s


Untitled (Marine Fantasy with Tamara Toumanova)
early 1940s


Untitled (Butterfly Fantasy with Tamara Toumanova)
early 1940s


Untitled (Boule de Neige Pour Tamara Toumanova)

smithsonian art museum online

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07-05-2007
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thanks cutx!, beautiful boxes.. especially the one with Lauren Bacall..

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yay, so someone finally posted!.

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..not to underestimate this forum or anything but.. it's the art and design section, cutx.. not SS and its 50-pages-in-3-hours threads.

don't hesitate to post some more, I find his work just fascinating.. it reminds me of those boxes that people build during a lifetime, hide, and are found a gazillion years later by total strangers.. that happens a lot during war times, non?. it's so beautiful.

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^true, true

i'll love to see some of those boxes, mullet, never seen any of them before.

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Yvette Mimieux
late 1950s


#1 Acqua


Americana: Natural Philosophy (What Makes the Weather?)
ca. 1959


Colombier (Dovecote #2)
ca. 1950


Envelope of "Jackie Lane Cinema"
1964

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What are everyones' favorites? I have to say I prefer his early stuff from the 1930s and 1940s, especially the Tilly Losch and Soap Bubble type stuff.

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Quote:
In "[b]Toward the Blue Pen insula (for Emily Dickinson )[b]," one of Joseph Cornell's most mysteriously poignant works, an antique wooden box encloses a white interior resembling an empty birdcage. A wire grid encloses an area toward the rear where a small window built into the back wall of the box frames a view of blue sky. In the place where the grid overlays the window, the wire has been cut and folded back, creating an opening through which, it would seem, the bird that once lived here has escaped into the wild blue yonder.


My absolute favourite piece of artwork. So, so incredible you saw his works in person! It's a dream of mine too. I've always felt an affinity with this man.

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13-05-2007
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^ I saw that one in person!. It's beautiful!. in fact, all of his ones for emily dickinson are beautiful..... i'll try to find some more online

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13-05-2007
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This is why I love the fashionspot, I almost always discover a new person, designer or artist to fall in love with when I come here.

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Here is an image from Webmuseum: Object (Abeilles)
1940
I quite like it.



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15-05-2007
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^ I saw that one too

In the show, there were some of his collages in homage to Max Ernst...they look like really detailed black and white pencil drawings but when you see them in person, you can see they are collages (i.e., the image on the left)


moma.org
I'll try to find more of these, but I didn't have any luck with the Emily Dickinson ones so don't expect me to find many of these....

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