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Rob Dunlavey
Happy Birthday to Joseph Cornell!
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"Hotel Eden" by Joseph Cornell
Today we acknowledge the birthday of the last great American vernacular Surrealist (and Constructivist) artist, Joseph Cornell. He quietly shot to fame as the curtain came down on an old world order back in the 1970's. His magical constructions create and describe a personal world of curio cabinets, cosmology and cluttered clues to find. Like an obsessive magpie, this Queens, NY recluse would glean cast-off Victoriana (old maps, love lettters, compasses, watch springs and clay pipes) from yard sales and thrift stores. The treasures would be carefully filed away in shoe boxes and later, with great deliberation, find their way into his small glass boxes. The theatre-like assemblages display a mind, feet firmly plodding the cirrus-clouds of imagined facts retrieving our souls and putting them in quiet, hallowed and albeit, musty places of distinction.

Assemblage, in the world of graphic art, is now the domain of Photoshop users who manipulate symbols and signs to make oblique and aggressive statements. Cornell, like all great artists, stands before the rabbit hole and suggests that we should jump in. Gravity will not get in the way and cut short your sleepwalking ramble through his dream worlds.


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