Just In! Joseph Cornell Collage
January 24, 2017
The work of self-taught artist Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) is among the most distinctive in the history of 20th century American art. A reclusive figure, Cornell was inspired to become an artist on encountering the work of the French Surrealists at an exhibition in New York City. While Cornell was physically isolated, he continued to follow the work other artists and was influenced by Dada and Constructivism, in particular Marcel Duchamp and Kurt Schwitters. Cornell’s first exhibitions, which focused on found object constructions, took place at the Julien Levy Gallery in the 1930s.
Untitled (Waxed Collage) is a work from Cornell’s 1960s period and shows a cartoonish gentleman in formal dress, looking through a hand telescope. Set within a white circle, the figure is collaged against a photograph of a mountainous landscape under a vast, orange-lit sky. The word ‘WAXED’ has been painted in thick, dripping paint across the glass surface. This mysterious interplay of image and text is characteristic of Cornell’s eclectic and deeply idiosyncratic work. Like many of Cornell’s other collages, this work is double-sided and on the reverse can be seen pages from a French book, headed with the words ‘de l’Académie de Saint-Petersbourg’. For Cornell, these rear faces – out of reach for most viewers – were just as important as the front image and he took care to apply a unique signature to each, sometimes in mirror writing, as is the case here.
Untitled (Waxed Collage) was featured in the major survey, “An Exhibition of Works by Joseph Cornell,” at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1966-1967. Cornell’s work proved formative for the following generation of artists like Bruce Conner, Richard Pettibone and Ken Price, whose mixed-media assemblages reveal the depth of Cornell’s impact.
Ashton, D. A Joseph Cornell Album, 2009. 103.
Untitled (Waxed Collage)
Paper collage on board framed behind glass
Signed in mirror-image verso
Collage/board (vis.): 11.25″ x 8.25″; Frame: 14.75″ x 11.75″
Provenance: Private Collection, New York, New York (acquired directly from the artist); Thence by descent
Exhibited: “An Exhibition of Works by Joseph Cornell,” Pasadena Art Museum, December 27, 1966-February 11, 1967
Literature: An Exhibition of Works by Joseph Cornell. Pasadena Art Museum ext. cat. 1996. #72.
Estimate: $15,000 – $20,000
March 5, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction