Untitled (Pharmacy) (1943) by Joseph Cornell

Untitled (Pharmacy) - Joseph Cornell - 1943

Artwork Information

TitleUntitled (Pharmacy)
ArtistJoseph Cornell
Dimensions15 1/4 x 12 x 3 1/8 in.
Art MovementSurrealism

About Untitled (Pharmacy)

The artwork “Untitled (Pharmacy)” by Joseph Cornell, created in 1943, is a compelling installation belonging to the Surrealist movement. It measures 15 1/4 by 12 by 3 1/8 inches. Surrealism is known for its exploration of the unconscious mind and the juxtaposition of unexpected elements, often with a touch of the whimsical or uncanny.

The artwork presents a wooden cabinet with multiple compartments, each housing a glass vial or bottle. These containers vary in size and are meticulously arranged in rows, creating a sense of order and symmetry. The vials contain an assortment of materials, including colored powders, pigment, feathers, coral, and other objects that evoke the sense of a traditional apothecary or a cabinet of curiosities. The diversity of contents within the bottles, along with their precise placement, contributes to the sense of wonder and enigma that is characteristic of Cornell’s oeuvre.

The front of the cabinet is fitted with glass, which not only serves to protect the contents but also adds a layer through which the viewer must engage with the artwork, highlighting the theme of separation and observation. The glass panes divide the space, both physically and metaphorically, suggesting a barrier between the world within the artwork and the reality outside of it. This could be interpreted as a commentary on the act of looking and the limits of perception.

The wooden frame that surrounds the cabinet is dark and unadorned, which grounds the otherwise ethereal or dream-like quality of the piece. This juxtaposition of the ordinary with the fantastical encapsulates the Surrealist intent to blur the lines between reality and imagination. Overall, “Untitled (Pharmacy)” exemplifies Cornell’s renowned ability to transform mundane objects into vessels of poetic and visual narrative, inviting viewers to interpret the work through their own personal lens of wonder, memory, and subconscious association.

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