New York

Joseph Cornell

Leo Castelli Gallery Uptown

The Q44A bus goes past Utopia Parkway, Joseph Cornell’s old neighborhood. The houses are of a sameness: two-story domiciles of brick, separated from each other by a cement driveway or a sparse patch of grass. There is a small shopping area nearby, featuring a Kosher deli, cleaning store, pet shop, bakery, dance studio, dress shop, etc.; nothing resembling Utopia here. Cornell had to make his own Utopia, but why did he seal it in boxes—create his coffinlike, stop-action environments? Strange for a man who was claustrophobic! Strange that he was compelled to trap objects and memories in a place where he would have been terrified. Like Ensor, who lived in his mother’s mask and curio shop, Joseph Cornell lived with his mother and a retarded brother, filling the attic of their house with boxes (some say they were created to amuse his brother).

Cornell loved sweets, and could consume whole cakes

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