Defense d’Afficher (1939) by Joseph Cornell

Defense d'Afficher - Joseph Cornell - 1939

Artwork Information

TitleDefense d'Afficher
ArtistJoseph Cornell
Dimensions8 15/16 x 13 15/16 x 2 1/8 in.
Art MovementSurrealism

About Defense d'Afficher

The artwork titled “Defense d’Afficher” is a creation by the artist Joseph Cornell, dated to the year 1939. It is associated with the Surrealist art movement and is classified as an installation piece. The dimensions of the piece are approximately 8 15/16 inches in height, 13 15/16 inches in width, and 2 1/8 inches in depth.

In “Defense d’Afficher”, the artwork presents a shadow box installation, a signature style of Joseph Cornell in which he would assemble various objects into glass-fronted boxes. Within this specific piece, two figures can be observed. On the left side of the box is a printed silhouette of a figure, possibly a woman, dancing or moving energetically. The phrase “Defense d’Afficher”, which translates to ‘Post No Bills’ or ‘No Posters’, is whimsically written across this figure, giving the artwork its name. On the right side, a three-dimensional figure resembling a doll or sculpture of a girl in a dress stands in profile. The positioning of these two figures appears to contrast with each other, evoking a sense of dynamic movement frozen in time.

Below the figures are blocks of different colors, adding a simplicity to the composition that contrasts with the textured and layered aspects of the figures. The use of color is subtle but purposeful, and the blocks upon which the three-dimensional figure stands seem to anchor the piece in a physical space, despite its implied motion.

The shadow box is framed in a dark border, accentuating the depth and contributing to the isolated and voyeuristic viewing experience often associated with Cornell’s boxes. The overall composition, with its juxtaposed elements and integration of text, resonates with the illogical and dream-like qualities of Surrealism, inviting viewers to derive their personal interpretations and associations.

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