The aim of this show of contemporary art is to re-create the enchantment viewers experienced when first encountering these visual marvels a century and more ago. The PRC gallery, curator Leslie K. Brown writes, has been made over into "a space somewhere between a cabinet of curiosity, carnival spectacle, and an early motion picture theatre." An even better analogy might be to the interior of one of Joseph Cornell's boxes. There's the same sense of sly magic and delicate otherworldliness.
In "Always, Just Beyond Reach," a set of outstretched hands can never quite reach a set of pretty flowers. Futility has rarely been so sweetly appointed. It's as if Laura Ashley were hosting a garden party in honor of Tantalus and Zeno.
In a league by itself is Hans Spinnermen's "The Dream of Timmy Bumblebee." It consists of an impressive contraption of metal and glass that looks not unlike an immobilized, Jenny Craig version of Robbie the Robot from "Forbidden Planet. " Projected within it is a film of a bumblebee in flight. The film is incidental to the rather majestic monstrosity of
Spinnermen's creation, which is on loan from le Musee Patamecanique, in Bristol, R.I.
I feel humbled; what more could a curator want than to have their gallery be compared to the inside of a Joseph Cornell box! (For Cornell fans, the Peabody Essex Museum will be hosting a huge retrospective of Cornell's work opening April 28.) The second quote is brilliant, what more can a writer pack into that last sentence!