Joseph Cornell and Astronomy: A Case for the Stars

Kirsten A. Hoving, Author Princeton University Press $49.5 (307p) ISBN 978-0-691-13498-7
Internationally celebrated American artist Joseph Cornell (1903-72) is best known for constructions, collages and three-dimensional assemblage boxes, largely intuitive and low-tech pieces that ""juxtapose pictures and objects in playful and poetic ways.... butterflies and birds, ballerinas and actresses, children from Renaissance paintings... and hundreds of works with references to astronomy."" Not incidentally, he also called his humble kitchen-studio ""the observatory."" Author and professor Hoving (Fables in Frames) has the same lifelong fascination with astronomy, and mines that vein for important themes in Cornell's work and life. Looking at the artist's process through the day's scientific landscape-the 1951 eclipse that confirmed (basically) the General Theory of Relativity, evolving ideas like ""celestial navigation""-Hoving documents Cornell's intense interest through his diary entries (charting stars against mundane foreground details, mentioning conversations with de Kooning on ""Einstein, time, space, etc.,"") and reading habits. Figures are plentiful, and reproductions of Cornell's work are crisp and colorful; combined with Hoving's deep research and enthusiasm, this a surprisingly lively read, full of insight into Cornell as well as the intersection of art and science. 138 illus.
Reviewed on: 12/01/2008
Release date: 12/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
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