Modern and Contemporary Wing
Through February, 2013
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is presenting an installation of works by Joseph Cornell (American, 1903-1972), one of the pioneers of the art of assemblage who was widely admired for his exquisite collages and box constructions. Including rarely-shown objects, this installation brings together for the first time all works by the artist in the Museum’s collection.
Among the highlights is Cornell’s fragile and rarely exhibited Untitled Book Object (Journal d’Agriculture Pratique et Journal de l’Agriculture) (1933–45). It is a turn-of-the-century French agricultural manual transformed by Cornell through intricate manipulations of its pages, ranging from foldings and cutouts to insertions of drawings and objects. These interventions turn the book into a unique artwork and an extraordinary example of Cornell’s particular working method. In addition to works from the Museum’s collection, five works by Cornell loaned from private collections are also on view.
In the 1940s, Cornell became a member of the expatriate Surrealist circles in New York. Although he never identified himself with the movement, he is frequently considered to be one of the leading American Surrealist artists. To construct his objects, Cornell employed found materials such as antique photographs, magazine clippings, maps, and art reproductions, as well as an array of objects, from pipes and ball bearings to dolls and discarded commercial packaging. A self-taught artist, he also worked as a textile designer and graphic designer, and experimented with sculpture and film.
Another installation highlight presents rarely-displayed works by Cornell’s contemporaries, including Marcel Duchamp. During the years of their friendship, Cornell sometimes assisted Duchamp in assembling a series of editioned works, very likely including the specific version of Duchamp’s Box in a Valise (1935-43), which is on display. Also on view is Cornell’s Duchamp Dossier (c.1942-53), a lidded cardboard box containing an original work by Duchamp given to Cornell as well as typed and handwritten notes, letters and postcards, exhibition announcements, and other such records collected over a decade of friendly exchange and correspondence between the two artists.
“Cornell’s works are maps of the imagination, where connections among the most disparate things and ideas are drawn according to the imperious rules of memory and desire. In part because of the artist’s links to the Surrealist movement, and especially because of his friendship with Marcel Duchamp, Cornell’s work represents some of the best of the Museum’s collection, which also contains the largest holdings of Duchamp’s work in the world,” said Anna Vallye, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The installation will resonate with the upcoming special exhibition Dancing around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp on view from October 30, 2012 through January 21, 2013, which will trace the indelible influence of Duchamp on some of the most important figures in postwar American art.
The Cornell installation is presented in conjunction with the publication of a boxed set edition reprint of Untitled Book Object and includes a suite of facsimile pages from the book, together with a volume of scholarly essays and an interactive CD-Rom. The boxed set is published by Thames and Hudson in association with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and will be available in the Museum Store in November 2012 ($80.00)
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