Birds of a Feather: Joseph Cornell’s Homage to Juan Gris at The Met Fifth Avenue, January 23 – April 15, 2018

“On October 22, 1953, Joseph Cornell wrote in his diary: ‘Juan Gris/Janis Yesterday.’ He was referring to the previous day’s outing, when, on one of his frequent trips to the gallery district in midtown Manhattan, Cornell visited the Sidney Janis Gallery on East 57th Street. Among a presentation of approximately 30 works by modern artists, one alone captivated Cornell—Juan Gris’s celebrated collage The Man at the Café (1914), which is now a promised gift to the Museum as part of the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection.

This shadowy profile of a fedora-topped man immediately inspired Cornell to begin a new series: some 18 boxes, two collages and one sandtray created in homage to Juan Gris, whom he called a “warm fraternal spirit.” Completed over a period of 13 years, Cornell’s series of Gris shadow boxes is more extensive in number than any other that the artist openly dedicated to one of his admired luminaries of stage, screen, literature, or the visual arts. The main protagonist of Cornell’s Juan Gris series is a bird—the great white-crested cockatoo—specifically, an image taken from a 19th-century print of the species that Cornell repeatedly used along with Photostats or silhouettes of the bird’s form to explore the fascinating shadows that Gris produced in his own practice. At The Met, the exhibition Birds of a Feather: Joseph Cornell’s Homage to Juan Gris will reunite for the first time a dozen boxes from Cornell’s Gris series together with the Cubist masterpiece, The Man at the Café.” — The Met

Joseph Cornell (American, 1903–1972). Untitled (Juan Gris Series, Black Cockatoo Silhouette), ca. 1954-65. Box construction, 19 5/8 × 12 × 4 3/8 in. (49.8 × 30.5 × 11.1 cm). The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville Art, Gift of The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, 2002.15.3 © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Joseph Cornell. A Parrot for Juan Gris, Winter, 1953-54; then June 25, 1957. Mixed media: Glazed wooden box; wooden parts; cut chromolithograph; paper collage; ink; crayon; metal dowel and ring; string; cork ball; folded note, 17 3/4 × 12 3/16 × 4 5/8 in. (45.1 × 31 × 11.7 cm). Collection of Robert Lehrman, Courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Joseph Cornell. Untitled (Juan Gris Series), ca. 1958. Mixed media: wood: stained/painted, glass, paper, 17 1/4 × 11 1/8 × 4 7/8 in. (43.8 × 28.3 × 12.4 cm). Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, 1985.64.74 © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Joseph Cornell. Grand Hotel Bon Port, late 1950s. Box construction, 17 1/2 × 10 1/4 × 4 in. (44.5 × 26 × 10.2 cm). Private collection © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

The exhibition is curated by Mary Clare McKinley, an independent art historian based in London and former Assistant Curator in the Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Exhibition images courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Installation view photo by Corrado Serra for Arts Summary, A Visual Journal.