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Ray Johnson, Untitled (Daffodil from Joseph Cornell's Grave), 1983-85-86-91+

Ray Johnson, Untitled (Daffodil from Joseph Cornell's Grave), 1983-85-86-91+

Katonah Museum of Art

134 Jay Street

Katonah, NY 10536


Miniature Worlds explores the relationships between Joseph Cornell and two pioneering artists—Ray Johnson and Yayoi Kusama—and brings their works together for the first time.

Both Johnson and Kusama met Cornell in the 1960s, when they were fast becoming fixtures of New York’s downtown art scene. Even in an environment that prized experimentation, Johnson and Kusama were unusually and radically inventive. They worked in painting and collage as well as emergent forms like installation art, performance, and mail art, often simultaneously. In many ways, Cornell was their polar opposite. A generation older, he had been exhibiting his box assemblages and collages in the city’s more conservative, uptown galleries and museums since the 1930s. Yet, for both Johnson and Kusama, Cornell was a friend, artistic lodestar, and model for cultivating a creative practice—and, indeed, a creative life—on one’s own terms.

This exhibition examines the prominent role Cornell played within the vast network of visual and textual references and free-form associations that Johnson synthesized from his every-day life. It also traces how Kusama turned to collage to evoke and commemorate Cornell. Like all relationships, these two friendships were worlds unto themselves, complete with their own histories, languages, and complex emotional terrains. The intimate, small-scale works exhibited here were shaped by and reflect these miniature worlds.