Andromeda Hotel: The Art of Joseph Cornell

by Therese Lichtenstein




About the author

Therese Lichtenstein has taught art history and museum studies at New York University, Rice University, and Mount Holyoke College.



(above: Joseph Cornell (1903-1972), Untitled (American Rabbit), c. 1945-46, Box construction, 3 1/8 x 16 1/2 x 13 3/8 inches. Private Collection )


About the exhibition

Andromeda Hotel: The Art of Joseph Cornell focuses on the notions of metaphorical journeys, memory, and nostalgia in Cornell's boxes and collages.

Throughout his life, Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) cultivated an encyclopedic knowledge of art, science, cinema, ballet, literature, theatre, music, and history.  He was also a devoted collector and archivist.  All of these interests came together in the fantastic assemblages he produced between the 1930s and l960s.  By recombining found objects and reproductions from popular culture and mass media and arranging them in small boxes, Cornell not only preserved forgotten objects and fading icons but also gave them new life.  As viewers travel metaphorically into Cornell's miniature worlds, they will participate in the magic and poetry of the everyday. 

Andromeda Hotel: The Art of Joseph Cornell explores themes of nostalgia, love, desire, beauty and death, the ephemeral and the permanent.  The exhibition includes an assortment of Cornell's collages, chests and cabinets, aviaries, hotels, observatories, and celestial navigation variants.


(above: Joseph Cornell (1903-1972), Untitled (Andromeda Hotel), 1953-54, Box construction, 19 x 13 3/4 x 6 1/4 inches. The Robert Lehrman Art Trust, Courtesy of Aimee & Robert Lehrman, Washington, DC)


Editor's note:

The following essay was written in conjunction with the exhibition Andromeda Hotel: The Art of Joseph Cornell, on exhibit at the Katonah Museum of Art from June 25 through September 17, 2006. The essay was reprinted on June 26, 2006 in Resource Library with the permission of the author and the Katonah Museum of Art. If you have questions or comments regarding the essay please contact the Katonah Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Mimi Taft of the Katonah Museum of Art for her help concerning permissions for reprinting the above essay.

RL readers may also enjoy:

The Smithsonian's Archives of American Art presents "Exquisite Surprise: The Papers of Joseph Cornell," an exhibition featuring selections from the personal archives of Joseph Cornell. It will be on view to the public from Nov. 17 through Feb. 28, 2007, at the Archives of American Art's Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery, located on the first floor of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture in Washington.

The exhibition complements the Smithsonian American Art Museum's exhibition "Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination," on view from Nov. 17 through Feb. 19, 2007.

"Exquisite Surprise" reveals Cornell's sense of wonder through his private communications, personal musings and collected ephemera. Known mainly for his box constructions and collages, Cornell also was a filmmaker and graphic designer. In his personal papers, Cornell recorded on scraps of paper the intertwined sensations of seeing, feeling and remembering. His notes on the backs of envelopes, magazine clippings and wrapping papers illuminate his creative process. Deeply romantic, with wide-ranging cultural interests, he kept "dossiers" on people with whom he felt a special relationship-real or imagined- including actresses, singers, artists, ballerinas and writers. He also collected images from magazines and books, as well as prints, maps and artifacts as potential source material for his art.

Featured in the exhibition are Cornell's diaries, selected photographs and letters to him from George Brecht, Rudy Burckhardt, Roberto Matta Echaurren, Ray Johnson, Julien Levy, Mina Loy, Robert Motherwell, Dorothea Tanning and Fay Wray, and a sampling of source material that Cornell saved for his assemblages and collages.

The Joseph Cornell papers were recently scanned in their entirety and are available online as part of the Terra Foundation for American Art's five-year, $3.6 million grant to digitize 100 of the Archives' collections. The public can view the entire collection online or through an exhibition kiosk at the Fleischman Gallery.


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rev. 11/13/06

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