The exhibition presents approx. 60 works from the holdings of Sammlung Essl and showcases the work of Asger Jorn, Karel Appel and Pierre Alechinsky. All three artists were members of the COBRA group (1948-51), whose name is derived from the initial letters of the cities Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam, where the founding members hailed from. In addition to Appel and Jorn, initiators included Christian Dotremont, Joseph Noiret, Constant and Corneille.
With the same fierceness and fighting spirit as the eponymous snake, the COBRA artists opposed bourgeois ideals, artistic academism and dogmas. Influenced by Surrealism and the formal idiom of Paul Klee and Joan Miró, the artists developed an autonomous visual perspective and expressive formal language. They drew inspiration from Nordic folk art with its myths and legends, the visual imagery of children and the mentally disturbed, as well as indigenous art from the Pacific region.
The exhibition presents about 30 paintings from five decades and two wood assemblages by the Dutch artist Karel Appel, and it traces the work of the Danish painter and art philosopher Asger Jorn from his early works from the 1940s to his COBRA period and also includes late paintings created shortly before his death (1973). The Belgian artist Pierre Alechinsky is represented with twelve works, mainly acrylic paintings. Some of the works on paper that were later mounted on canvas have never been shown in public before and have come directly from the artist’s studio.
Curated by Rudi Fuchs, former director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and independent exhibition curator, the exhibition follows the trajectory of the artistic careers of Alechinsky, Appel and Jorn across seven decades. The show is complemented by historical film records designed to convey an impression of the explosive creative force of this generation of artists. A catalogue with essays by Karlheinz Essl and Rudi Fuchs will be published for the exhibition.