Thursday, November 13, 2008

Joseph Cornell, Master of Assemblage...

Joseph Cornell is known for his small wooden boxes (from 10-12 inches to 20 or more inches in size), artfully filled with various objects. These boxes were usually covered with a pane of glass. Some of the elements were kinetic. These works of art are referred to as assemblages. The objects were chosen carefully, although many held no intrinsic value alone; when combined these objects reveal a deeper meaning. Birds were a common image, (a personal favorite) as were constellations and other heavenly bodies, either as two-dimensional images or merely evoked by a round sphere. Juxtapositions were always poetic, evoking associations often explored by Surrealists, of mystery, fantasy, the subconscious, dreams, etc. However his work differed from the Surrealists in that he was more interested in finding poetic connections of meaning between disparate objects. The miniature world in itself always has a unique charm and when these few objects are isolated in such a way they force us to really look at them and to think about their possible intended meanings. The spareness of the compositions also contributes to the expressiveness, with their geometry, curves and two- and three-dimensional spaces.Cornell's work brings some of this sense of wonder and mystery back to us.
Here is a bit of history that formed the foundation for Cornell's Assemblage Boxes. Duchamp, the Dada artist, developed the idea of the 'readymade' as an art object, early in the 20th century. Basically as an intellectual questioning of what the nature of art truly is, as well as a Dada shock tactic, Duchamp placed a urinal in a New York exhibition in 1915 (an object is art if the artist says it is). From this point on, the 'found' object could also be art, alone or with other objects. Cornell had already been collecting bits and pieces and putting them together into collages when he met Marcel Duchamp in the early 1930's.(Ah true inspiration!) His acquaintance with Duchamp and the Surrealists influenced his thinking and his work, as well as the box constructions of Kurt Schwitters, another Dada artist. Schwitters' abstract collages and constructions were composed of materials which had already been thrown away and 'useless,' however, rather than precious items chosen carefully for their meanings. Cornell had no formal art training, and didn't draw or paint or sculpt in the traditional sense. However he was the very definition of artistic and creative, as an artist who takes materials and/or elements, and combines them in inventive and/or expressive ways.
Click on Arrow to View Slide-Show.

Cornell worked in the textile industry as a designer until 1940, and continued to make his boxes and collages, as well as a number of films. Until his death in 1972 he continued to be honored as an artist and to live his quiet life.

Are you interested in taking a workshop that is inspired by the work of Joseph Cornell? It is a Saturday Sisters Art Workshop event and will be held the second Saturday in December.I created this sample to illustrate my interpretation of a Joseph Cornell Holiday Box. Click for more info.

1 comment:

On Top On Bottom said...

wow..coooll wooden love it!