No artist ever led a stranger life than Joseph Cornell (1903-72), the self-taught American genius prized for his enchanting and disquieting shadow boxes, an art form all his own. By now, many legends surround Cornell: that of the painfully shy hermit lost in a world of books, silent movies, and long-gone ballerinas; that of the patiently devoted ...Read MoreNo artist ever led a stranger life than Joseph Cornell (1903-72), the self-taught American genius prized for his enchanting and disquieting shadow boxes, an art form all his own. By now, many legends surround Cornell: that of the painfully shy hermit lost in a world of books, silent movies, and long-gone ballerinas; that of the patiently devoted caretaker who would rush home from an afternoon at the Manhattan galleries to minister to his mother and invalid brother; that of the artistic innocent whose creations emerged as happy accidents from his hands. Yet Cornell and his work were cherished by the leading avant-garde figures of his day, and artists who agreed on little else agreed on Cornell's originality. Utopia Parkway - the product of Deborah Solomon's decade of sustained attention to Cornell, and the first serious biography of him - reveals him as a brilliant and relentlessly serious artist whose works are among the monuments of modern art. Admired by successive generations of vanguard artists - the Surrealists of the 1940s, tbe Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s the Pop artists of the 1960s - Cornell cultivated friendships with artists as diverse as Marcel Duchamp, Willem de Kooning, and Andy Warhol. He had romantically charged encounters with women, including Tamara Toumanova, Susan Sontag, and Yoko Ono, and unrequited crushes on anonymous waitresses and shop girls. All this he recorded compulsively in a diary, which stands with the boxes themselves as a strange and affecting record of his extravagant inner life.Read Less
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