Joseph Cornell, an American artist and filmmaker, is celebrated for his pioneering work in assemblage. His signature multimedia “shadow boxes” extract an inexplicable poetry from arrangements of humble objects and images. One of his notable works, created in 1942, is the Untitled box collection of objects.
The round cardboard box measures 3/4 by 2 1/4 by 2 1/4 inches and contains found objects, painted surfaces, and collage elements that Cornell combined to create his poetic associative works. His technique highlights the aesthetics of arrangement through the use of common materials such as photographs, maps, shells, cutouts from books and magazines – arranged on a background covered with colored paper. The resulting compositions are dreamlike experiences that blur the distinction between art reality.
Cornell’s innovative practice of assemblage had a significant influence on surrealist artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst. Untitled (1942) embodies Cornell’s two trademarks- elegance and whimsy- apparent in each object carefully chosen to be part of his composition yet able to maintain its individual identity within the overall work. This piece demonstrates how he turned ordinary items into evocative art displays by juxtaposing different shapes or textures to create movement within tight confines while speaking volumes to anyone daring enough to venture into their meaning.