Joseph Cornell, Rose Hobart (1936)
Courtesy of “Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Experimental Film 1894-1941”

Film Love at the High
The Cinema of Joseph Cornell

Thursday, January 17, 2019
7:00 pm at the Hill Auditorium, High Museum of Art
$14.50  |  Free for members

After sixteen years and over 150 unique programs, the Film Love series is being honored by Atlanta’s High Museum of Art with a spring 2019 retrospective. The retrospective programs will be curated by Film Love founder Andy Ditzler, and will feature audience favorites and rediscovered gems from the series’ long history. The retrospective begins on Thursday, January 17, with one of Film Love’s most popular shows: the cinema of Joseph Cornell.

One of the twentieth century’s best-known artists, Joseph Cornell created surreal shadow box sculptures and collages of extraordinary appeal and complexity. Less known is that Cornell is equally influential as a filmmaker. His body of films constitutes a cinema entirely its own – like his other art, mysterious and playful in equal measure. Film Love’s first show at the High Museum of Art – part of a retrospective series – will feature Cornell’s rarely screened work, presented mostly in 16mm prints, the medium in which he worked.

Cornell’s mid-1930s film collages, constructed from film reels purchased cheaply in New York City’s flea markets, were audacious experiments. He re-cut his found treasures into surprising new combinations of imagery that reconstituted early cinema’s magical trickery for a modern era. Because Cornell’s talent as a scavenger of old films was equal to his artistic abilities, many of his early films double as tours through the still-astounding novelty movies of cinema’s first decades.

His most ambitious work in this mode, Rose Hobart (1936), distills the 1931 B-movie East of Borneo down to a twenty-minute portrait of its lead actress, re-ordering the events for dreamlike effect. Its premiere was auspicious: no less than Salvador Dalí (who was present) was so jealous of Cornell’s idea that he attacked the projector in a rage. He may have been correct, for Rose Hobart is today an acknowledged early masterpiece of the now ubiquitous "found footage" genre of cinema.

By the 1950s, Cornell was making films from his own footage – but in a characteristically unique way. Instead of operating the camera himself, he recruited two notable filmmakers, Stan Brakhage and Rudolph Burckhardt, to shoot footage in his presence as they explored the streets and parks of New York. These films are filled with poignant attempts to capture ephemeral emotions or fleeting moments of beauty and insight – a cinematic achievement on par with the artist’s much more famous shadow boxes.

Both phases of Cornell’s filmmaking will be represented at the event. Curator Andy Ditzler will introduce the films, followed by discussion.

Cotillion, The Midnight Party, The Children’s Party (Lawrence Jordan and Joseph Cornell, 1940s/1968), 16mm, 25 min
Rose Hobart (Joseph Cornell, 1936), 16mm converted to digital, 20 min
The Aviary (Joseph Cornell and Rudolph Burckhardt, ca. 1954), 16mm, 5 min
Nymphlight (Joseph Cornell and Rudolph Burckhardt, ca. 1957), 16mm, 7 min
A Fable for Fountains (Joseph Cornell and Rudolph Burckhardt, ca. 1954), 16mm, 6 min
Centuries of June (Joseph Cornell and Stan Brakhage, 1955), 16mm, 10 min
(Joseph Cornell and Rudolph Burckhardt, ca. 1957), 16mm, 3 min

Hill Auditorium, High Museum of Art
1280 Peachtree St NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30309

THE CINEMA OF JOSEPH CORNELL is a Film Love event. The Film Love series provides access to great but rarely seen films, especially important works unavailable on consumer video. Programs are curated and introduced by Andy Ditzler, and feature lively discussion. Through public screenings and events, Film Love preserves the communal viewing experience, provides space for the discussion of film as art, and explores diverse forms of moving image projection and viewing.


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