The exhibition of some 150 works allows the visitor to retrace the history of the Cobra movement (1948-1951) by strictly limiting the review to those years. This allows us to underline the main fundamental axes that show us, on the one hand, the artistic reality at the end of the war and, on the other hand, the debates that at the time built a real European conscience. This makes the exhibition be an overall look of that period.
Surrealist, tachisme or abstract expressionism?
The CoBrA movement, created in Paris in November 1948 by artists from Copenhagen (Asger Jorn), Brussels (Christian Dotremont, Joseph Noiret) and Amsterdam (Karel Appel, Corneille, Constant), remained unknown out of Europe. Assimilated at moments to the tail of a surrealist comet, at others to a Nordic manifestation of tachiste or informal art, Cobra is also perceived as a European formula of abstract expressionism such as it flourished at the time in the USA. The current project aims first at retracing the history of the Cobra movement by placing it in its historic and cultural context. After the Liberation and during the Cold War, Cobra wanted to explore other paths we would consider today libertarian or alternative. As such, the action carried out by Cobra deserves to be underlined in a perspective that led certain of its members to Situationism and to Fluxus.
Illustration : Karel Appel, Chat taurin, Bull Cat, 1951, Rotterdam Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, © Karel Appel Foundation 2008
A rich documentary fund
The exhibition is built around four themes that allow us to go beyond the nationalistic attitude in which the studies dedicated to Cobra seem to have gotten bogged down in these recent years. This way of seeing things does not prevent though the creation of «monographic» groups offering the visitor a great number of points of encounter with persons as important as Jorn, Appel or Pedersen. Lastly, we must point out that the exhibition gives a large space to documentary elements (letters, texts, magazines, books, photographs). Photographic enlargements integrated to the scenography give life to the presentation, preserving as best possible the Cobra spirit.
A lasting influence
In parallel, an exhibition presented at the Palace of Fine Arts aims at revisiting - through prints, engravings and other printed matter - the work of these major artists of the post-war period, between Brussels, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. More than half a century after the official dissolution of this particularly dynamic movement that grouped together from 1948 to 1951 the aspirations of a large group of artists of Northern Europe, it continues to have an influence on contemporary creation
Illustration : Christian DotremontJe lève, tu lèves, nous rêvons 1948, private collection (P.A.), © SABAM Belgium 2008
Catalogue for the 2 exhibitions, French , Dutch, English, 280 ill. Published by Lannoo 35€.
The exhibition at the Palace of Fine Arts, Bozar Expo, 23 rue Ravenstein - 1000 Brussels (Tel. +32 (0)2 507 82 00, website www.bozar.be ) is being held from November 8 to January 4. Free admission from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm and on Thursday until 9 pm. Closed on December 25 and January 1.
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