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Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Cornell’

Art House: On “John Ashbery Collects”

October 22, 2013 | by

Installation view of "John Ashbery Collects: Poet Among Things."

Installation view of "John Ashbery Collects: Poet Among Things," at Loretta Howard Gallery, New York.

So just what is the “thingness of the thing” that Heidegger was talking about? The phrase’s riddlesome poetry could easily have been penned by John Ashbery, instead of the crusty German phenomenologist. Is Heidegger suggesting that material things possess an essence, an abstract quality that both defines and constitutes, say, a shoe—its shoeness? Perhaps, but Ashbery, in fact, offers a more straightforward assessment of the unseeable stuff that makes stuff stuff in the opening lines of “Grand Galop”: “All things seem the mention of themselves.” Such are my thoughts as I roam the rooms of Ashbery’s Hudson, New York, home … well, only to the degree that the galleries at Loretta Howard, in Chelsea, have been decorated with trompe l’oeil drawings—wainscoting, doorways, mantels—to look like the rooms of the poet’s well-appointed nineteenth-century house.

Thoughtfully curated by Loretta Howard Gallery and poets Adam Fitzgerald and Emily Skillings, the show offers a selection of Ashbery’s own paintings, prints, collages, bric-a-brac, and furniture; it’s all cozily arranged to conjure as much domestic atmosphere as might be had in a gallery space. Kitschy figurines, VHS tapes (Daffy Duck and Jack Benny among them), bawdy toys, and hand-painted plates line the shelves of cabinets and bookcases that could have been lifted whole from Ashbery’s parlor. Other items, like the French Provincial chairs and Oriental rugs, have been. They complement a piano drawn on a wall on which are hung several selections of early twentieth-century sheet music (“Mr. and Mrs. Is the Name,” “Flirtation Walk”), as if resting on the instrument’s music desk.

Alongside such homey items (the cartoons playing on the TV jangle in a familiar way with the filigree wallpaper designs) are pieces by many of the poet’s friends and artistic confederates, such as Joan Mitchell, Fairfield Porter, Larry Rivers, Trevor Winkfield, Jess, Alex Katz, Jane Freilicher, and Willem de Kooning. There’s a gemütlich vibe, equal parts wry and melancholic, generated by this assemblage of things cultural that ably recalls the mood and manner of Ashbery’s writing. To elucidate this point, the curators include wall text featuring apt passages of his verse that treat the world, if not the mind, as a congeries of curios, a kind of Cornell box. Of course, the show includes a few of those; with poems populated by Popeye, Henry Darger, Chopin, Faust, Parmigianino, and a myriad of other, less identifiable references, it’s no surprise that Ashbery is a devotee of Cornell’s eclectic connoisseurship. Both share an affinity for the metaphysique d’ephemera, an aesthetic that elevates the trivial to the transcendent. Read More »

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Staff Picks: The Kid, ‘Reading for My Life’

February 24, 2012 | by

I am so excited to visit this Djuna Barnes exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum: it’s an archive of her New York journalistic work between 1913 and 1919, frequently illustrated by the budding modernist herself. —Sadie Stein

“John had many moving parts, exploding in as many directions as one of his sentences,” writes Jen Nesselin in one of the rememberances that round out the new collection of John Leonard’s writings, Reading for My Life. “But he was, above all, an enthusiast.” Those ecstatic, exhaustive, amassing—enthusiastic!—sentences, nestled in the pages of The New York Review of Books or Harper’s or The New York Times, were a delight to me for many years. I’m even more delighted to have so many of them in one place. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

Joseph Cornell, mostly known for his shadow boxes, also made surrealist films. UbuWeb carries some dozen of them, including the rightfully famous Rose Hobart, the only movie to screen publicly during his lifetime—it sent Salvador Dalí into fits of rage, which sent Cornell’s cinema into hiding. Yet it’s The Midnight Party that really charms and disturbs. —Josh Anderson

“They free me from the prison of contemporaneity: one should not live only in one’s own time. A wall of books is a wall of windows.” Leon Wieseltier’s hymn to having shelf upon shelf of books perfectly conveys the reason I’ll never stop bringing books home. —Nicole Rudick

Recently I found myself watching a lot of Israeli cinema. I began with Or, about a daughter struggling to support her mother and keep her out of prostitution, and moved on to Jaffa, about a secret affair between a Jewish woman and an Arab man—both brilliant films featuring the splendid Dana Ivgy. —Natalie Jacoby

For those fond of the scandalous and confessional, take a look at these diaries of the famous. A perfect reading list for the voyeuristic. —Elizabeth Nelson

Of all last week’s tributes to the late, great Gary Carter, the one that choked me up most was an emotional Keith Hernandez, who, back in the day, used to mock the exuberant and clean-living catcher. I also love Left Field Cards’s tribute to “The Kid,” the proceeds of which go to the National Brain Tumor Society. —S.S.

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Staff Picks: ‘The Duel,’ An Annotated ‘Peter Pan’

November 4, 2011 | by

“I must find an explanation and a justification for my ridiculous life in the theories of others, in literary types ... Last night, for instance, I comforted myself by thinking repeatedly: Oh, how right Tolstoy was, how unmercifully right! And this made me feel better.” Does everybody else know that Chekhov wrote a novel? I had no idea—until I came across Margarita Shalina’s new translation of The Duel, all about a “superfluous” man who has moved with his mistress to the Caucasus to start a new life, which, you can guess how well that goes ... —Lorin Stein

I’ve always been fascinated by Peter Pan, from the Mary Martin musical to the frankly somewhat twisted details of Barrie’s biography (says Anthony Lane: “the actual making of love lay outside his interests, or beyond his grasp”). What a pleasure, then, to happen upon The Annotated Peter Pan, released last month. Here I learned that Barrie saw a “touch of the feminine in Hook, as in all the greatest pirates”; that Tinkerbell, far from a fetching blond, was once “a fairy-tinker, a creature who mended pots and pans”; and that Barrie was obliged to add a warning to the play, cautioning children against leaping out of their windows thinking “lovely wonderful thoughts,” after hearing that some children had in fact given it a try. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

I’ve been reading translations of the Turkish poets Cevdet Anday and Yahya Kemal, the Pakistani Faiz Ahmed, and the Polish poet Tadeusz Rozewicz, all published on the blog of that exemplary little journal, Little Star. The first two print issues were a delight, and I’m told a third issue is due any day. —Robyn Creswell

If you are trying to build your own art collection, but your pockets are a bit too shallow for the Chelsea gallery scene, be sure to check out the collage show at The Ugly Art Room in Williamsburg, curated by skilled collagist Charles Wilkin. —Charlotte Strick

Charles Simic’s Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell illustrates the patchwork beauty of Cornell’s artwork and, like his famous shadow boxes, the book is structured using surreal yet precise vignettes. There’s nothing quite as exciting as reading a poet’s prose.  —Jessica Calderon

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