Amon Carter print details

Soap Bubble Set (Lunar-Space Object)

Joseph Cornell (1903-1972)

Object Details

  • Date

    ca. 1959

  • Object Type

    Sculptures

  • Medium

    Mixed media

  • Dimensions

    14 1/2 x 9 7/8 x 3 3/4 in.

  • Inscriptions

    Verso:

    signed l.l. in ink: [backwards] Joseph Cornell

    titled c.c. in ink: "Soap Bubble Set"\ (Lunar - Space Object)

  • Credit Line

    Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

  • Accession Number

    2009.3

  • Copyright

    © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York

Object Description

Cornell interpreted the world through elaborate box constructions inspired by nineteenth-century Victorian shadowboxes made for holding precious objects. He composed his works through surreal-like associations of found objects. This one, with its photographic image of the moon, is a nod to the post-World War II Space Race between the United States and the former Soviet Union for dominance in space exploration and travel.

Associating bubbles with planets, Cornell incorporated a bubble-blowing pipe at the bottom of the box. The seashell suggests the tides and the gravitational pull between the earth (white ball) and the moon, while the column of numbers is most likely a chart of star notations. Though related in these ways to space exploration, the work remains mysterious, suggesting Cornell’s romantic vision of celestial navigation.

Additional details

Location: On view
W28-artist-CMYK-CarterBlack
See more by Joseph Cornell

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Educator Resources
  • What is an assemblage?

    Why might an artist incorporate everyday objects into an artwork?

    How might a work of art reflect or relate to important moments in history?

  • Look closely at the work of art. What materials did the artist use to create this sculpture?

    What is an assemblage? A form of sculpture made of “found” objects arranged so that they create a new artwork. Found objects can be organic or human-made and can include anything from scraps of wood, like in George Morrison’s New England Landscape II, to juggling pins, like in Louise Nevelson’s Lunar Landscape.

    Why do you think Cornell chose these objects to create this sculpture?

    Are there any objects that stand out to you more than the rest?

    One object is bigger than the rest. What is the object, and why do you think Cornell decided to make it the focal point? What other decisions did the artist make in arranging these items? Why do you think Cornell composed the objects in this way?

    What do you think is the subject of this work of art? The title of the artwork provides some hints.

    This artwork was made in 1959. What events were happening in the United States during that time?

    What historical event was taking place between the former Soviet Union and the United States during this post-World War II time?

    How might the objects in this assemblage be symbols for the Space Race/ or of space itself? What do you think the objects symbolize? Associating bubbles with planets, Cornell incorporated a bubble-blowing pipe at the bottom of the box. The seashell suggests the tides and the gravitational pull between the earth (white ball) and the moon, while the column of numbers is likely a chart of star notations.

  • Grades 5–12

    Students will research a moment in history. Using their selection as their main topic, they will collect found objects that symbolize moments from their chosen history topic. Found objects should be small enough to fit inside of a shoebox or box lid.

    Once students have a plentiful collection of found objects, they will use a shoebox or box lid as a shadowbox to house their sculpture.

    Students should practice placing their objects until they are happy with the composition.

    Upon finalizing their composition, students should glue or tape their found objects down.

    On the back of their shoebox or box lid, students should write a key indicating which items symbolize what aspect of their historical moment.

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