Joseph Cornell traveled only as a child and even then, never beyond New England. Yet his constructions are almost palpable in their yearning for new experiences and sights, and evoke the wanderlust of their creator. Cornell often described himself as an "armchair voyager" to earlier eras and other countries, and gathered his impressions of distant times and places through old photographs, prints, postcards and books from his obsessive ransacking of thrift-stores and libraries.
Initiating his series of Hotels in 1950, Cornell captured impressions of Europe's impressive old buildings and thereby the nineteenth-century concept of the grand tour. In these works, windows invite the consideration of interior and exterior views, and many examples suggest chambers that open onto nocturnal skies. Other examples evoke the aging of European buildings through deliberately cracked and peeling surfaces papered over with cutouts from advertisements for hotels and shops.
With its cracked deep blue background, Untitled (Hotel Andromeda) is allusive of both night sky and ruin. Juxtaposed against this backdrop, the image of the titular mythological character doubles as a reference to a constellation of the same name, thereby strengthening the work's nocturnal suggestiveness. Cosmology was of fundamental interest to Cornell and works from his earliest collages to his latest boxes are rife with references to the sun, moon, stars and planets; indeed, astral maps were the focus of his Celestial Navigation series. Yet, Andromeda also refers to the Greek myth about the Ethiopian princess and daughter of Cassiopeia who was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a ravaging sea monster who was sent by the Gods on account of her mother's boastfulness about a beauty that surpassed that of Juno. Attached to the overhead metal rod via circular ring, a silver chain descends the length of the box, passing through the back of the figure, and alluding to her captivity (but also to the artist's own.) Evoking ancient Europe through his use of myth, and his faded, semi-obliterated cutouts for the words "hotel" and "Andromeda," Cornell suggests old world charm.
With its multiple readings and layered content, Untitled (Hotel Andromeda), reflects Cornell's peripatetic hunger, not only for the tangible fragments of life, but also for erudition. Revealing an eccentric imagination at work, the present work captures the alchemy of disparate found objects congealing into a work of exquisite poetry.