Curatorial Project 3 - "Joseph Cornell ☆ Karen Kilimnik"
"Joseph Cornell ☆ Karen Kilimnik"
curated by Todd Levin
Sprüth Magers London
9 June - 27 August 2010
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Since an early age, Cornell was fascinated with the Romantic ballet which saw an international revival in the 1930s, providing him with the fantasy and escape that he so eagerly sought in his own life. The Romantic ballet celebrated the ideal of female beauty and marking the rise of the ballerina as the central spectacle. Captivated by the renowned ballerinas of the time, Cornell would collect delicate memorabilia associated with Marie Taglioni and her modern counterpart, Tamara Toumanova, who both featured in numerous issues of Dance Index magazine to which Cornell contributed cover designs. The artist’s deep appreciation for the ballet is captured in his collage "Homage To The Romantic Ballet" (c. 1960).Similarly, Karen Kilimnik’s art rematerializes a quest for the romantic sublime. Kilimnik’s preliminary study of theatre and stagecraft is apparent from her depictions of historic stages, their colour coded seating charts and researched drawings of ballerinas. The emergence of tutus and pointe foot work during the period created the mystical illusion of dancers barely touching the earth, like the ballerinas who frequently populate Kilimnik’s images, illustrated in "Degas painting hair ornament accessories bag world," (2004). Accompanied by music from the nineteenth century Romantic ballet, the exhibition reveals the specificity with which the artist draws upon references to this particular era. In addition to the recurring subject matter of Kilimnik’s work, the artist’s use of materials suggests the influence of Cornell, evident from the ephemeral glitter illuminating the installation work "Paris Opera Rats," (1993) to her reference to birds, the principal characters in Cornell’s 'Habitat' series, in "Chic Robin’s Egg Nest," (2005).
Both artists’ frame of reference extends to the presentation of their works and the surrounding environment in which they are encountered. For this exhibition, the artworks will be showcased within the midnight blue gallery walls, used by the both artist in their artworks and/or installations to create impressions of the sky and which they both believe to evoke contemplation of the celestial. In addition to the painted walls and, characteristic of Kilimnik’s and Cornell's theatrical installations, the gallery will be transformed into an aesthetic context which alludes to the salon era of the nineteenth century, enabling the viewer to palpably enter into a dialogue with the past.
Karen Kilimnik was born in Philadelphia where she lives and works. Recent retrospective exhibitions include "Intervention: Karen Kilimnik" at the Belvedere in Vienna; "Karen Kilimnik at the Institute of Contemporary Art," Philadelphia, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami and MoCA Chicago; and a retrospective the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris which travelled to the Serpentine Gallery, London.
Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) was born in Nyack, New York. Recent exhibitions include ‘Museums in Miniature: works by Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. In addition, a large retrospective of Cornell’s work "Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination" started at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, and then travelled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.
I would also like to deeply thank and acknowledge The Royal Ballet School, White Lodge Museum and Ballet Resource Centre, Richmond Park, Richmond, Surrey for their kind collaboration regarding loans for this exhibition.
- Todd Levin, June 2010