Hilary Price and Caroline Donadio
Scope and Contents
The papers of New York City photographer, conceptual artist, and musical composer Cosmos Sarchiapone measure 49.2 linear feet and 0.367 GB and date from circa 1860-2011, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1940-2011. The collection includes biographical material and personal business records; correspondence; extensive writings, including written and recorded music compositions; teaching files; printed material and published sound and video recordings; photographic material; artwork; artifacts; and unpublished sound recordings and born-digital material. Highlights of the collection are more than 40,000 photographic images documenting New York's avant-garde art scene of the 1970s, along with celebrity parties, concerts, exhibition openings and other occasions in the art, music, and theater world. Extensive and somewhat rare printed materials offer users a visual chronical of the downtown art world in the form of posters from the 1970s, including a number of Milton Glaser's, and hundreds of exhibition announcements, theater programs, and playbills.
Biographical material and personal business records include address books, calendars, legal paperwork, life documents, resumes, and other material. Correspondence is both personal and professional in nature. Personal correspondence is between Cosmos and friends, family, and pen pals. Professional correspondence is with curators, publishers, and estates and mostly concerns Cosmos's artwork, photographs, or objects he lent for exhibition or publication.
Writings include general writings and notes, including a book layout for a book never realized; fifteen notebooks containing Cosmos's writings about projects, dreams, and miscellany; music compositions in both written form and on sound recordings; and scattered writings by others, including manuscripts and theater scripts.
Teaching files document photography courses taught by Cosmos at the School of Visual Arts in 1974-1976, and the Parsons School of Design in 1980.
Printed materials and commercially published sound and video recordings in the collection are extensive and reflect Cosmos's unique interests and inspirations, and his tendency to save and collect material discarded or rejected by others. There are books and periodicals featuring Cosmos's work, annotated by Cosmos, or of special significance to Cosmos. There is also a list of books in Cosmos's library. Some of the periodicals concern Push Pin Studios and Milton Glaser. There is a large group of ephemera, such as announcements, catalogs, press releases, programs, playbills, posters, and assorted items covering several decades of New York exhibitions, events, concerts, and performances. There are posters for exhibitions, events, performances, film screenings, and concerts. Some of the clippings and other ephemera may have been removed from scrapbooks or other compilations, and some remain collated and mounted on mat board. Some of the printed materials may have been used by Cosmos as source materials.
Photographic material makes up a significant portion of the collection (14.5 linear feet), and illustrates the breadth of Cosmos's documentation of New York City, capturing the avant-garde art and theater worlds, the people and streets, self-portraits, and numerous other subjects. There are images of named people and people at parties, of exhibitions and performances, of New York City streets and buildings, of a more personal and family nature, of artwork, and of miscellaneous subjects. There are also collected photographs, some of which are vintage. There is a large group of unidentified and unsorted negatives, slides, and contact sheets. Where they existed, labeling and descriptive notes have been preserved with the unidentified materials.
Artwork is also quite extensive (10.5 linear feet) and found in a variety of genre, format, and media. There is also a small subseries of artwork by others. One group of artwork consists of titled or named art projects and series, often executed in the form of series that spanned decades. This group includes Cosmos's Reciprocal project that incorporated his photographic work. For this project, he would photograph notable figures, including John Cage, Robert Scull, and others, and ask them to photograph him. There are also several folders of Cosmos's work focusing on photographer Diane Arbus.
A group of artwork identified as "compilations" consist primarily of photocopies of compiled presentations of documents, photographs, fragments, writings, drawings, printed materials and ephemera, and bits and pieces of Cosmos's titled work. These compilations were prepared by Cosmos for individuals in the art world to whom he was close. The original compilations were then photocopied and presented to the intended receiver. The subseries of compilations contains both originals and photocopied versions that do not always correlate with one another. Also found among the artwork are drawings, illustrations, a few paintings, collages, and sketchbooks by Cosmos. Artwork by others includes an artist book, drawings, a sketchbook, and prints by Milton Glaser, Alex Hay, Douglas Huebler, Marvin Israel, Ray Johnson, Ellsworth Kelly, and Eve Sonneman.
Found within the collection are three dimensional artifacts, including eight cameras and other items Cosmos saved and collected to incorporate into his photographs.
There is a large series of unpublished sound recordings and born-digital material, some of which is clearly identified and labeled, and some of which is unidentified. When known, labeling has been incorporated into the folder titles in the container inventory. Users should note that sound recordings that were clearly identified and associated with other projects were arranged in context with those related materials.
Printed material (series 5), photographic material (series 6), and artwork (series 7), include many photocopies. Cosmos used the photocopy process to make copies of his work to share with others, and as a creative form of art in itself, experimenting with tonality, collage, and the degeneration of images from repeated copying. Photocopies were also made of articles, newspapers, and various source material and ephemera that he collected. Many photocopies have descriptive labeling on the back. For some photographs and projects, photocopies are the only form of documentation located in the collection.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated to the Archives of American Art in 2015 by Tom Sarchiapone, Cosmos Sarchiapone's brother, via Catherine Morris, curator and friend of Cosmos.
The collection was processed and the finding aid prepared by Hilary Price and Caroline Donadio in 2016. Born-digital materials were processed by Kirsi Ritosalmi-Kisner in 2020 with funding provided by Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.