Saturday, 18 July 2015

Joseph Cornell Wanderlust

The real purpose of my visit to the RA however, was to see Joseph Cornell Wanderlust, which I thought was a very good exhibition. Cornell is such an inspirational artist, and has probably influenced every other artist like myself who worked/works in the box-frame format. It has been over thirty years since the last survey of Cornell's work, so this exhibition is long overdue. It is a really wonderful show full of self-contained miniature worlds in a variety of boxes which display the gamut of Cornell's imagination. Surprisingly, as his shadow boxes are so evocative, Cornell never travelled outside of the United States, but trawled second-hand bookshops, flea-markets and dime stores to find source material for these magical boxes. I guess the sense of travel and magic conjured up in the boxes are a reaction to, and antidote to the very humdrum life that he was forced to lead, having had to support his family financially from an early age with the premature death of his father.

The elements and objects of the boxes are beautifully selected and composed like 17th century Dutch still life paintings. Personal favourites were the constellations series and of course the birds.


The scale of some of Cornell's pieces are tiny, which creates a sense of intimacy and drew you closer into he work. The sheer range of objects and paper ephemera that he adapted for use in his collages and boxes was interesting to see. And it is a real testament to the power of his imagination that he was able to conjure up and evoke places and environments which were alien to him so vividly.
Joseph Cornell Wanderlust
until 27th September
The Sackler Wing
Royal Academy of Arts