philadelphia

“Joseph Cornell/Marcel Duchamp . . . In Resonance”

Philadelphia Museum of Art

When asked, in 1961, whether he wanted to destroy art, Marcel Duchamp replied: “I don’t want to destroy art for anybody else but for myself, that’s all.” While never quite destroying it for himself (or anyone else, which is a pity)—the museum’s rapacious maw would frustrate that—Duchamp altered so absolutely what and why and how art is (by perverting received notions of what constitutes it, by eroticizing and laughing at it, by making it a joke)—that he defaced it, much as he defaced himself, replacing Marcel with a more gamine, photographic other, Rrose Sélavy: The body’s face in Étant donnes is impossible to see.

And then there is Joseph Cornell. Although he embraced Surrealism, designing the cover for the 1936 book that gallerist Julian Levy named for the movement, and displaying his works in the landmark exhibit that accompanied it, Cornell distanced himself from most of its frat-house

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