Deborah Solomon’s definitive biography of Joseph Cornell, one of America’s most moving and unusual twentieth-century artists, now reissued two decades years later. Join her for an illustrated book talk.
No artist ever led a stranger life than Joseph Cornell, the self-taught American genius prized for his disquieting shadow boxes. 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 more ordinary: a small house he shared with his mother and invalid brother at 3708 Utopia Parkway in Flushing.
In a cluttered basement, he spent his nights arranging photographs, cut-outs and other humble objects into some of the most romantic works to exist in three dimensions. However, Cornell was no recluse. 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. All this he recorded compulsively in a diary that, along with his shadow boxes, forms one of the 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.
About the Author
Deborah Solomon is a nationally-acclaimed art critic, journalist and biographer. She writes primarily for The New York Times, and her weekly column, “Questions For,” ran in The New York Times Magazine from 2003 to 2011. Currently her art reviews appear regularly on WNYC Radio. Solomon was educated at Cornell University and received a master’s degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism. She lives in New York City with her family.
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