Above: Karen Kilimnik, Me Corner of Haight & Ashbury, 1966, 1998.
Below: Joseph Cornell, Untitled, c. 1953.
Image courtesy of the Artists, 303 Gallery New York and Sprueth Magers Gallery Berlin London.
Currently on view at Sprueth Magers London is “Something Beautiful,” a collaborative show by American artists Joseph Cornell and Karen Kilimnik. Curated by Todd Levin, the exhibition features paintings, collages, and mixed-media installations that reflect the influence of the Romantic-era ballet on both artists.
Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) was an American artist known for pioneering the art of assemblage. Created from found objects, Cornell’s boxes often read like three-dimensional Surrealist paintings. He admired the work of Max Ernst and Rene Magritte, but claimed to have found their work to be too dark. His work was also inspired heavily by his beliefs in Christian Science, which he adopted in his early twenties. He never received formal training as an artist, but was influenced by American Transcendentalist poetry and French Symbolist painters, such as Mallarme and Nerval. Another motif of his work, 19th century European ballet dancers, comes to life in this exhibition.
Similarly, Karen Kilimnik’s work redeploys discreet objects in a quest for the romantic sublime. Theater and stagecraft have figured strongly in her installations, and her use of particular materials suggests the influence of Cornell. Often making direct references to Degas and other Impressionist painters, Kilimnik’s subjects occupy a nineteenth-century world: one of mystery, drama, and romance.
Anthony Byrt, in his review for Art Forum, refers to Levin’s conceptual approach here as a “bold curatorial statement,” suggesting that the premise upon which the two artists are connected is a precarious one. However, “Ballet aside,” says Byrt, “tangible links do emerge, such as theatricality, quiet spectacle, and ideas of feminine beauty, which both artists explore.”
Karen Kilimnik, Paris Opera Rats, 1993. Image credited as above.
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