Monday, June 20, 2011

Every Lonesome Hotel

I went to the MCA yesterday, having no idea that one of my favorite artists of all time, Joseph Cornell, had a show devoted to his work and his influence on modern and contemporary art.  In some ways the biggest show there right now, featuring contemporary artist Mark Bradford, could be seen as an extension of the Cornell exhibit--Bradford also works in found material, and the careful creation of art as object.  His large-scale Mithra, created in new Orleans, could be a Cornell box on a much larger scale.

From Joseph Cornell we learn about buildings, repetition, ballerinas, and the moon.  We learn about birds that are captured and birds that break free, and the mysterious nude woman behind the blue pillar. In Cornell's boxes it's always either midnight, or dusk, and someone is looking over your shoulder. The curators mentioned maps, and cages, but no one remarked on how Cornell often called his creations hotels, the oasis you check into, the room which becomes the room outside of daily life, the room outside of time.

In the park across the street: red-winged blackbirds, pigeons, and grackles. That and the raggedy man who mutters to the birds. In the building behind me (I write this on the steps of the MCA) torn scraps of paper, trash made beautiful, made meaning-full, as squares and rectangles of light. Mark Bradford making paintings without paint.

Cornell made collaged movies, too. You can see two of them at the exhibit. Repetition is a form of prayer. Again and again the young child bobbing for apples, the trapeze artists, the dancing.

A bird is a form of repetition, one pigeon so much like another, and again. You might come to love and to love and love this dark world, and every lonesome hotel, and every swan who becomes a ballerina in it.


  1. Cornell is a favorite of mine, too. A biography awaits on my bookshelf.

  2. Tantalizing review! I'm going down to see these shows next week.