- Cornell, Joseph
born Dec. 24, 1903, Nyack, N.Y., U.S.died Dec. 29, 1972, New York, N.Y.U.S. assemblage artist.He had no formal artistic training. In the 1930s and '40s he was associated with the Surrealists in New York City (see Surrealism). He was an originator of the assemblage; his most distinctive works were "boxes," usually with glass fronts, containing objects and pieces of collage arranged in elegant but enigmatic compositions. Recurrent motifs include astronomy, music, birds, seashells, glamour photographs, and souvenirs of travel. His appeal rested on the Surrealist technique of irrational juxtaposition and on nostalgia.
* * *▪ American sculptorborn December 24, 1903, Nyack, New York, U.S.died December 29, 1972, New York, New YorkU.S. artist, one of the originators of the form of sculpture called assemblage, in which unlikely objects are joined together in an unorthodox unity.Cornell was self-taught, and in the 1930s and 1940s he associated with Surrealist artists and writers, concerned with expressing the subconscious, his works being presented in the first U.S. exhibition of Surrealists (New York City, 1932).Many of Cornell's works take the form of glass-fronted boxes containing objects and collage elements arranged in enigmatic, often poetic juxtaposition. Recurrent themes and motifs include astronomy, music, commedia dell'arte, birds, seashells, broken crystal, and souvenirs of travel. Chocolat Menier (1950), for example, is a spare yet fanciful boxed collage of tattered labels and worn surfaces.Additional ReadingDore Ashton, A Joseph Cornell Album (1974, reprinted 1989); Kynaston McShine (ed.), Joseph Cornell (1980, reissued 1996); Deborah Solomon, Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell (1997).
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