Yellow Chamber

A work made of box construction.
Art © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

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  • A work made of box construction.

Date:

1950/51

Artist:

Joseph Cornell
American, 1903–1972

About this artwork

Yellow chamber is one of the most intricate of the boxes Cornell constructed with mirrors. The white interior, with its beading and planks of wood, appears at first sight to be deserted, as does that of another box of these years, Toward the “Blue Peninsula” (1951–52, Geneva, Daniel Varenne; New York 1980–82, pl. XXVII), However, whereas the blue sky, the open cage, and the single bird‘s feather in that evocative box signal escape, in Yellow Chamber the birds are hidden or trapped, visible only in a series of mirror reflections.

The “chamber” of the title reinforces the ambiguity of the interior space, which has strong associations with both architecture and a bird’s cage. It suggests both enforced enclosure—the locked chambers of fairy tales and hotel rooms (chambres). The unusual presence of two parakeets hints at a “ double room.” The spatial games Cornell played with mirrors here indeed evoke a double room with in the restricted area of the box. The title, Yellow Chamber; seems to refer to the yellow wall visible through the holes in the white wooden plank to the right (not visible in this photograph), and also hints at a particular, but unknown, story or history. The formal effect of the mirroring is to give the box an asymmetrical, rectilinear geometry, lightened and balanced by the circular elements (ring, holes, beads, springs).

— Entry, Dawn Ades, Surrealist Art: The Lindy and Edwin Bergman Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, 1997, p.66-67.

On View

Modern Art, Gallery 397

Artist

Joseph Cornell

Title

Yellow Chamber

Origin

United States

Date

1950–1951

Medium

Box construction

Inscriptions

Titled, dated, signed, and inscribed on back on four paper labels: Directions for care of box inside top cover (typed and photostated, “directions” not found) / YELLOW CHAMBER / 1950-1951. (typed) / Joseph Cornell (in the artist’s hand) / KEEP GLASS CLEAN (typed and photostated)

Dimensions

17 3/4 × 12 1/4 × 4 1/2 in.

Credit Line

Lindy and Edwin Bergman Joseph Cornell Collection

Reference Number

1982.1866

Copyright

Art © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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