Life is Like a Box of Chocolates…
and so is the work of Joseph Cornell.
Ole’ Joe was King of the Assemblage box - basically a 3D collage in a box incorporating some elements of surrealism and constructivism. The boxes generally have little compartments with little cut-out sculptural narratives or oddities in each one.
Many of his boxes, such as the famous Medici Slot Machine boxes, are interactive and are meant to be handled. Like Kurt Schwitters, Cornell could create poetry from the commonplace. Unlike Schwitters, however, he was fascinated not by refuse, garbage, and the discarded, but by fragments of once beautiful and precious objects he found on his frequent trips to the bookshops and thrift stores of New York. His boxes relied on the Surrealist technique of irrational juxtaposition, and on the evocation of nostalgia, for their appeal.
The Art Institute of Chicago has the most extensive collection of his work, all housed in a low lit little subsection of the modern galleries.
While the content inside is great, the boxes themselves are interesting to look at from a framing perspective. They are complex little entities - the exterior frame is not separate from the interior structure. I think what I enjoy about them the most, is that there is no way the artist could be separate from the framer. The art and the frame, the artist and the framer are inseparable.