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FREE EBOOK Ù Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell ç No artist ever led a stranger life than Joseph Cornell, the self taught American genius prized for his disquieting shadow boxes, who stands at the intersection of Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and Pop art Legends about Cornell abound as the shy hermit, the devoted family caretaker, the artistic innocent but never before Utopia Parkway has he been presented for what he was a brilliant, relentlessly serious artist whose stature has now reached monumental proportions Cornell was haunted by dreams and visions, yet the site of his imaginings couldn t have been ordinary a small house he shared with his mother and invalid brother in Queens, New York In its cluttered basement, he spent his nights arranging photographs, cut outs and other humble disjecta into some of the most romantic works to exist in three dimensions Cornell was no recluse, however admired by successive generations of vanguard artists, he formed friendships with figures as diverse as Duchamp, de Kooning, and Warhol and had romantically charged encounters with Susan Sontag and Yoko Ono not to mention unrequited crushes on countless shop girls and waitresses All this he recorded compulsively in a diary that, along with his shadow boxes, forms one of the oddest and most affecting records ever made of a life It is from such documents, and from a decade of sustained attention to Cornell, that Deborah Solomon has fashioned the definitive biography of one of America s most powerful and unusual modern artists I saw this in the bookstore at the Orange Co Museum of Art today Definitely something I want, as soon as I gear up to the 65 price tag. Biography is something I very rarely take up in my reading I much prefer memoirs, or personal diaries and journals whenever possible , and it s evenrare for me to actually read a biography all the way through, usually opting instead to read chapters or sections specific to my interests I had fully expected this to beor less my experience with Utopia Parkway, currently the only biography available on the life of nonconformist artist Joseph Cornell, whose work I have become increasin Biography is something I very rarely take up in my reading I much prefer memoirs, or personal diaries and journals whenever possible , and it s evenrare for me to actually read a biography all the way through, usually opting instead to read chapters or sections specific to my interests I had fully expected this to beor less my experience with Utopia Parkway, currently the only biography available on the life of nonconformist artist Joseph Cornell, whose work I have become increasingly enchanted by over the last few months and have been studying in greater and greater detail But I quickly became so engrossed in the specifics of Cornell s life that I ended up reading the whole thing, and it s probably the closest I ve experienced to a page turner in a good while I could hardly put it down Deborah Solomon definitely had her work cut out for her by taking on this subject In the various accounts and analyses of Cornell s work and life I ve read so far most seem to struggle with accounting for the complexity of Cornell s utter unconventionality in some he comes off as a whimsical, almost child like recluse under the domineering thumb of his dear Mama, in some he comes off like a marginalized hermit willfully on the fringes of art and society, and yet other descriptions portray him as a creepy voyeur type whose largely repressed sexual urges drive his work, which attempts to dominate the various female figures he held as his muses As Solomon proves, Cornell was indeed all of these things, but also manyall of these characterizations are like individual facets that change shape and color and even disappear with just the slightest change of perspective Cornell emerges as an endless and endlessly baffling bundle of contradictions, and she does a remarkable job of accounting for many of them, which is often done by her adamance to contextualize both Cornell s life and the art that it inspired within larger social and artistic movements One review currently on this site found this book kind of a downer, about a sad and very limited life, a description that rather took me aback, because as we find out through Utopia Parkway, Cornell s life can be described as such in only the most limited of ways what is remarkable is how rich of a life he seemed capable of creating for himself, largely within the carefully controlled confines of his own home But frankly, he managed to know just about everyone from Duchamp to Breton to Toumanova to Sontag to Yoko Ono and just about anybody who s anybody in between Which is ultimately what proves to be so inspiring so many life stories of famous people and artists in particular seem to involve extensive travels, glittering parties, intense heartbreaks and ecstasies in equal alternating measure, all of the glamorous, easily romanticized trappings of what many of us like to consider REAL living Cornell points to possible alternatives, and how richness of the mind, creativity and great accomplishment can take other forms as well.This probably isn t the ideal place to start one s explorations of Cornell s work it s muchenriching when one at least has some idea of some of the work Solomon constantly alludes to , but an essential supplement for anybody who s already a fan I gave it four stars because I learned a lot and it was pleasant to read basically, cornell was a weirdo who was extremely constricted by guilt and fear and I feel like if he had lived in iowa, we wouldn t have even heard of him because he was near new york at the time when he was, he had an entrance into the art world I guess I had a very different idea of what his boxes were I thought of themas sort of memory box assemblages I mean, I didn t think about them much I don t know that I gave it four stars because I learned a lot and it was pleasant to read basically, cornell was a weirdo who was extremely constricted by guilt and fear and I feel like if he had lived in iowa, we wouldn t have even heard of him because he was near new york at the time when he was, he had an entrance into the art world I guess I had a very different idea of what his boxes were I thought of themas sort of memory box assemblages I mean, I didn t think about them much I don t know that I ve ever seen one in person and apparently that s the only way to properly appreciate them because they don t reproduce well in photographs and you miss things like the inset mirrors a lot of them were a lotspare than I imagined them but good for cornell, ol kind of creepy impotent ballet fixated christian scientist mama s boy social misfit cornell, he never learned to draw but he became an influential and important artist it was definitely worth reading to get that little piece of art history I ve always loved Cornell s work I knew that he never moved away from home and was very reclusive, but Solomon really put him through the psychological wringer Her insights seem very probable and the resulting book gave me a clear picture of his intentions and process At some points I felt like I was standing right next to him in his basement or kitchen table as he chose and prepared the items for his boxes.I felt deeply sorry for Cornell because his social awkwardness prevented him from ha I ve always loved Cornell s work I knew that he never moved away from home and was very reclusive, but Solomon really put him through the psychological wringer Her insights seem very probable and the resulting book gave me a clear picture of his intentions and process At some points I felt like I was standing right next to him in his basement or kitchen table as he chose and prepared the items for his boxes.I felt deeply sorry for Cornell because his social awkwardness prevented him from having a richer exterior life He hated to part with his works and tried to avoid being an object of interest, although he counted many famous people as admirers I was sorry he was so in thrall to his mother And, while he dearly loved his brother, Robert, it was impossible for him to feel he could leave the two of them alone Consequently, Cornell s life was one of dreams and longing Perhaps his art couldn t have been as compelling if his life had been any different.I can t imagine reading athorough biography about an artist s life and work It actually made me appreciate Cornell s workThis book would be best read along with Joseph Cornell, Master of Dreams by Diane Waldman or Joseph Cornell edited by Kynaston McShine for their excellent reproductions of his work