In 1949, Cornell made his debut at the Charles Egan Gallery with his first show devoted to the boxes for which he is best remembered. Aviary consisted of 26 bird boxes from the late 1940s, hung on ledges of various heights to suggest birds in trees. Egan, whose 57th Street gallery opened in 1945, was to be a staunch supporter of Cornell. The two were an odd pair as Egan primarily fostered the careers of Abstract Expressionists whose style would come to define the art of the 1950s. Their partnership coincided with Cornell's turn toward a more streamlined modernity, away from of his preference for Victoriana and Surrealism in favor of a more streamlined modernity. Untitled (Aviary), with its white-washed interior, pegs and pull-out drawers typifies Cornell's new approach to his miniature habitats. He diverged from the "fairy-tale motifs that had engaged him throughout the 1940s... his Aviaries belonged to the era of Abstract Expressionism – with all that that implies about direct gestures and blunt truths" (D. Solomon, Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell, 1997, p. 186). Untitled (Aviary) is typical of the 1949 show with its spare interior, geometric elements of peg and spiral and lack of sentimental decoration.
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