likely 1950s
American
Sculpture-Assemblage
painted and papered wood and glass box, with wood, plaster pipe, metal rings, nails, and string
Overall: 9 1/4 × 15 × 3 1/4 in. (23.5 × 38.1 × 8.26 cm)
96.41
Not on view

“What kind of man is this who—from old brown cardboard photographs, collected in secondhand bookstores—has reconstructed the 19th century “grand tour” of Europe for his mind’s eye more vividly than those who took it?” —Robert Motherwell

Cornell was a self-taught artist who entered the New York art scene in the 1930s. To create his signature box-constructions, he assembled discordant materials gleaned from junk shops and bookstores. In this work, a broken pipe shaped like a human head with African features lies on a piece of driftwood surrounded by twisting nails, metal rings, and other debris. The deep blue background, with its spots of white and crosshairs of a telescopic sight, suggest a glimpse into a night sky. For Cornell, who rarely ventured outside New York, these objects and images would have evoked notions of voyage, temporality, and longing.

Verso: "Joseph Cornell" written in black ink, mirror, on manila paper strip, bottom right, above which is written "sono un caro, enivrito foglio di illustris - "; masking tape on bottom marked "l / D.A."
Gift of the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation
“Top 100 Treasures.” Arts and Antiques XX, no. 3 (March 1997). (Pp. 108-109).
Collection of the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, Key Biscayne, Florida; Gift to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), Richmond, Virginia in October of 1996.
©artist or artist’s estate

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