You might say that Joseph Cornell lived in a box within a box.
From his early teens to his death in 1972 at the age of 69, the artist stayed firmly tied to a home in Queens he shared with his mother and invalid brother.
When Cornell ventured out, it was chiefly to rummage for any number of objects that he would use back home to create the assemblages that made him famous — each contained in a little box with a glass front.
As art critic Robert Hughes writes, "that glass, the 'fourth wall' of his miniature theater, is also the diaphragm between two contrasting worlds. Outside, chaos, accident, and libido, the stuff of unprotected life; inside, sublimation, memory,...