Joseph Cornell

Navigating the Imagination

October 06, 2007 - January 06, 2008

A self-taught artist, Joseph Cornell relied almost exclusively on found materials. He collected items from books, newspapers, second-hand stores, exploratory walks — even sweepings from his studio floor — to create intricate, elaborate box constructions and collages. These enchanting works of art transformed commonplace objects into extraordinary and magical dreamscapes, earning him immediate and enduring respect. This exhibition brings together nearly 200 works dating from the 1930s until the artist's death in 1972, offering the first comprehensive retrospective of his work in a quarter century at its only West Coast venue.

This exhibition is co-organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., and the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, with support from the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts as part of American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius, The Mnuchin Foundation, the Ridgestone Foundation, and James Corcoran, Los Angeles, and with the cooperation of The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation.

The San Francisco presentation of this exhibition is made possible by the Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for Traveling Exhibitions.