Untitled (Primary Title)
Shadow box (Object Name)
“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.
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