Joseph Cornell and Surrealism
March 7 - June 8, 2014
Curated by Matthew Affron, Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Sylvie Ramond, Director and Chief Curator of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, France
This international loan exhibition focuses on the work of Joseph Cornell, the American pioneer of collage, montage, and assemblage art in the decades of the 1930s and 1940s. These years span both Cornell’s emergence and maturation as an artist and the heyday of surrealism in the United States. The exhibition will comprise some one hundred objects by Cornell and other artists and it will be accompanied by a significant publication featuring original essays by American and European scholars. It is a collaboration between the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia, which has holdings that include six boxes and fourteen collages, the majority having come as gifts from the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation in 2002 and 2005. The exhibition is scheduled for Lyon beginning in fall 2013. The Fralin Museum of Art will be the second venue.
The confluence announced in our title, Joseph Cornell and Surrealism, provides an historical framework for the exhibition. Surrealism was the revelation that launched Cornell as an exhibiting artist. It was also the cultural milieu—the world of painters, sculptors, and photographers (many of them expatriate Europeans), art galleries and museums, and poets, critics, and magazines—that shaped and molded him through the first half of his career. We will present key works by Cornell as well as selected pieces by other major artists to evoke that surrealist environment in New York and to trace Cornell's course through it.
There have been four large monographic exhibitions devoted to Cornell, and numerous shows have treated selected aspects of his art. Our exhibition is the first to explore Cornell's relation to the larger surrealist world. More specifically, it centers on surrealism's catalyzing effect on Cornell's art. Surrealism activated the development of Cornell's signature working method: collage and the related procedures of montage, construction, and assemblage. And it was to surrealism that Cornell owed his basic conception of the visual image as the product of poetic juxtaposition. With this in mind, we will explore the diversity and interconnectedness of Cornell's artistic practices and formats. These include, of course, the two-and three-dimensional formats for which he is best known: collages, found object pieces, and shadow box constructions containing found objects. The other major strands of Cornell's achievement will also receive in-depth examination, including the artist's engagement with photography, his groundbreaking work in collage film, and the open-ended and non-linear archives of printed materials that Cornell called his "explorations." Juxtapositions with key works by other artists—Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, and Man Ray, among others—will elucidate his activity in the context of surrealism.
Joseph Cornell and Surrealism
Thursday, April 3
Coffee and tour at The Fralin from 9:30 am to 12:00 pm; symposium in the Kaleidoscope Room at Newcomb Hall from 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Parking is free in Culbreth garage; please inquire about accessible parking. Parking map >
This symposium brings together a group of scholars who have engaged Cornell’s work and the history of surrealism.
The tour and symposium are free and open to the public, but please register by contacting Katelyn Hobbs at 434.924.6322 or email>
Please note that symposium events will be held in the Kaleidoscope Room at Newcomb Hall, unless otherwise noted.
9:30 am | Coffee reception | Entrance Gallery, The Fralin Museum of Art
10:00 am | Tour/discussion of the Joseph Cornell and Surrealism exhibition led by co-curator Dr. Matthew Affron, Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, formerly The Fralin’s Curator of Modern Art and Associate Professor, McIntire Department of Art | The J. Sanford Miller Family Gallery, The Fralin Museum of Art
12:00 pm | Lunch Break
1:00 pm | Symposium opening remarks by Dr. Jennifer Farrell, Curator of Exhibitions and Contemporary Art, The Fralin Museum of Art
1:15 pm | “Wondering about Wonder (Cornell’s Voyages in the Imagination),” Mr. Robert Lehrman, art collector, Cornell scholar, and philanthropist
2:00 pm | Collecting Ghostly Things: Cornell, Breton, Surrealism, Dr. Kate Conley, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the College of William and Mary
2:45 pm | Poetics of the poem-object: fans, boxes, and an egg, Dr. Mary Ann Caws, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature, English, and French at the Graduate School of the City University of New York
3:30 pm | Joseph Cornell’s Found Objects: The Nostalgia of the Cinematic, Dr. Diana Bush, Assistant Professor in the College of Arts and Letters at Stevens Institute of Technology
4:15 pm | Coffee Break
4:30 pm | Joseph Cornell’s Optical Toys, Dr. Matthew Affron, co-curator of the Joseph Cornell and Surrealism exhibition and Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, formerly The Fralin’s Curator of Modern Art and Associate Professor, McIntire Department of Art
5:45 pm | Roundtable question-and-answer session with audience and speakers
6:00 pm | Concluding remarks by Dr. Jordan Love, Academic Curator, The Fralin Museum of Art
This symposium is organized in conjunction with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
The Fralin Museum of Art’s programming is made possible by the generous support of The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation.
The exhibition and associated programming is also made possible through the generous support of the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Annenberg Foundation/GRoW, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Fralin Museum of Art Volunteer Board, the Arts Enhancement Fund sponsored by the Vice Provost for the Arts, U.Va. Arts Council: Enriching the Arts on Grounds, the Office of the Provost & the Vice Provost for the Arts, the Suzanne Foley Endowment Fund, albemarle Magazine, and Ivy Publications LLC’s Charlottesville Welcome Book. It is held under the auspices of FRAME (French Regional American Museum Exchange).