' “seph Cornell ated art works :atrice Colin nts of Box Art.

Marcel Duchamp and Yoko Ono a within four wal looks at the ex

A hybrid art form which .nnbines painting. collage.

photography. sculpture. assemblage and printmaking. art within a box structure offers little environments of

creation. In three dimensions. elements are arranged to depict visual narratives. surreal drearnscapes or just collections of objects. From Man Ray Mr Kmfe um! l'brk. a framed table setting with a meal of wooden heads in a string net conceived in l944. to Sol LeWitt‘s lie/II ('ube from 1961. artist‘s have used the structure as a Pandora‘s Box of experimentation.

By the 605, boxes had become the symbol of booming consumerism and many artists adopted the structure to make statements about the perceived commoditication of art

For the first time. a selection of art in box structures will be shown together. in the exhibition. 3Worlds in a Box . Work from the 'l‘wenties to the present day traces several ideological threads. skips through several major art movements such as Dadaism. Surrealism. Minimalism and Pop Art and examines the way the box has been used innovatively as cases for assemblages. performances. stage sets. mail art or just as a repository for objects. Opening like window‘s into the artist's dreams. nightmares or real

experience. they are fascinating slices of 20th century


It has been argued that artists have been drawn to boxes for different reasons. Some used the box as a frame for their work in response to the development

ofcinerna and latterly. television. ()thers employed it as a continuation of Cubist collage. By the 60s. boxes

had hecorne the symbol of booming consumerism and many artists adopted the structure to make statements about the perceived commodification of art. But origins of box art start with the growth of interest in assemblage.

In the early 1920s Kurt Schwitters. a Dadaist. was one of the first artists to abandon the traditional materials of art and turn to everyday objects such as photographs. newspapers and junk to express his ideas. He made huge assemblages of rubbish. juxtaposing disparate objects to take collage into another illogical dimension. (‘urlredru/ ()fEI'Ufft' Misery which was part of a work called Men/mu was the first environmental sculpture to he composed from an artist‘s studio and contained broken light fittings. coloured lids from Camembert cheese boxes and tram tickets. Schwitters used his studio like a huge container where life and art crossed paths.

But it was Duchamp‘s Bone en lit/{set I941 ) a 300- cdition linen-covered case containing (i8 items. such as photographic and miniature reproductions of his earlier work. which influenced successive generations. By placing objects and ideas within a certain environment. to ironically question the valtre of art. Duchamp inspired artists such as Louise Nevelson. Claes ()ldenhurg. the International art movement. Fluxus. and contemporary artists such as Will Macl..ean and Antony Iiarnshaw.

Although many individuals experimented with the box structure. the artist who produced the most prolific output of art within boxes was Joseph Cornell. In the Forties. he created containers reminiscent ofjewellery cases or cosmetic cases and filled them with bottles and medicines. Ten years later his box constructions had developed to incorporate mirrors. l’liotostats and collage fragments. Using objects such as birds and reproductions of Renaissance paintings. the meaning ofeach is magnified by its proximity to the next to make powerful narrative metaphorical statements. Turning reality into fantasy. (‘ornell brought Duchamp's art of the Readyrnade to a new level of sophistication.

Dadaism continued to wield its anarchic and iconoclastic influence in the 60s. and Duchamp's notion that an art work needn‘t be a unique creation. but could be a commercial venture or an accessible form ofartistic exchange. influenced the Pop artists.

But it was the Fluxus Collective. a group ofartists which included John Cage. Yoko ()no and George Maciunas who really embraced the box structure. With reference to Duchamp. they created limited edition Flux-kits in black attache cases which were

; filled with as assortment of ready made objects.

These games or activities included works by the

artists as well as the movement's newspaper and the kit could he Used as a portable installation.

Duchamp’s notion that an art work needn’t be a unique creation, but could be a commercial venture or an accessible form of artistic exchange, influenced the Pop artists

The l’luxus group aimed to bring together American and Iiuropean artists who wanted to bridge the

yawning gap between sculpture. painting. music. poetry. dance and theatre. and members such as Joseph Betty's saw the work as a kind of 'evolutionary process”. which explored the transience ; ofexistence. witnessed life and stimulated debate. ' Yoko Ono created an all white chess set. George Maciunas made a work containing a pop-out snake and Robert Filliou. a plastic box with hair.

By the mid 70s. the box with its many references and connotations. had hecorne an established medium for artists. In this show. there are examples ; of work by individuals including Robert Morris Marcel Broodthaers. William Christenberry and j Susan lliller.

The packaging ofart by artists. the exploration of

illusion. altered reality and containment is an intriguing challenge to the viewer. ln this show. I37 art works suggest I37 worlds waiting to be discovered.

ll’hrlds in a Box is a! the C'r'ly Art Centre. liz/r'rrburg/r Su! 28 May—[6 Jul.

The List 20 May—2 June 1994 63