Joseph Cornell: Gifts of Desire

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9780962851421: Joseph Cornell: Gifts of Desire

Cultural historian Dickran Tashjian provides a fresh analysis of the works that Joseph Cornell conceived as gifts to ballerinas,poets and actresses. In this way the artist connected his life withg that of Emily Dickinson, Marianne Moore, Hedy Lamarr, Lauren Bacall and other glamourous and talented personalities he admired, most often from afar.His gifts ranged from simple gestures of love and affection to collaborations and exchanges with photographer Lee Miller and artists Leonor Fini and Dorothea Tanning,who,like himself,were connected with the Surrealist movement.

By making extensive use of the artist's diaries,correspondence and library,Tashjian leads the reader on a wondrous journey through the labrinth of Cornell's creative process.This beautifully designed book with lavish color plates captures the spirit of Cornell's enchanting collages and box constructions.

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About the Author:

Dickran Tashjian is professor of art history at the University of California, Irvine. Some of his other books are "A Boatload of Madmen:Surrealism and the American Avant-Garde 1920-1950" and "William Carlos Williams and the American Scene."


In the hansomely produced "Joseph Cornell:Gifts of Desire"(Grassfield Press),Dickran Tashjian makes clear how often there was,in fact,an intended recipient for whom the work was conceived of by the artist as a gift.It is not simply that cornell was generous,as artists often are,making presents of their work to friends or lovers or causes.A true gift, instead,is conceived of with a specific recipient in mind,and selecting fifts is a special talent.But Cornell often made his boxes specifically as gifts for particular person for whom he felt a certain admiration,or affinity,or to whom he acknowledged some spiritual obligation;and the entire structure of the box was defined by the one for whom it was intended. Cornell once gave to Robert Motherwell, one of the founding members of the Abstract Expressionist School,a box in which poster paint was spattered onto newspaper and cardboard.And in this case,as in the other gift-works, it is a kind of portrait of the recipient. Perhaps all true gifts embody the essence of those who are to receive them. By making gifts,Cornell turned those whom he admired into works of art. It was a very magical transformation. -- Arthur C. Danto, Harper's Bazaar (Dec. 1992)

This most-welcome book on Joseph Cornell(1903-1972)has a charming premise;that the artist created many of his intriquing collages and boxes with a recipient in mind.

The idea opens a virtual box of treasure for author Dickran Tashjian, a professor at the University of California, who connects Cornell's incluseion of certain image and objects in his work to people for whom he felt an affinity-such as the pooets Marianne Moore and Emily Dickinson,film stars Hedy Lamarr and Lauren Bacall and histoic figures such as the mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria.

The idea that the boxes were gifts or tributes to specific people clears up a lot of what remains fuzzy about our understanding of Cornell. Usually lumped among the Surrealists,the artist never quite fit that category. Nor,it seems,was he a proper innocent,the maker of enchanting but thoroughly mysterious objects. Though he lived in Flushing,outside the arena of the art world,he was well educated and and thoroughly clued in to contemporary activities of the avant garde....

...In an odd but pleasurable journey not usually associated with art books,readers travel to Bavaria,Hollywood,New York's ballet world,Mexico and Flushing(NY),in the process of discovery. -- Helen L. Kohen, The Miami Herald (Dec. 6, 1992

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