Centre Pompidou

Asger Jorn

11 Feb - 11 May 2009

Asger Jorn
La Fleur du mal, 1946
© Silkeborg Kunstmuseum, Danemark

February 11 2009 - May 11 2009

The first personal exhibition from Asger Jorn in a Parisian museum since 1978. "Stay right in touch, and distinguished with it. Painting is done for. Might as well give it the coup de grâce. Turn it around. Long live painting."
Asger Jorn (1914-1973), the co-founder of the Cobra movement in 1948, was the most significant Danish artist of the 20th century. He spent a large part of his life in France, where in the 1930s he studied at the Fernand Léger studio. Then in the 1950s and 1960s he played a leading role in several avant-garde movements, most notably the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus (1953-1957) and the Situationist International movement (1957-1960)...
The art of Asger Jorn is essentially spontaneous, dynamic and coloured. His figurative art, of great expressive intensity, is marked by Scandinavian mythology and its fantastic bestiary. The Cobra movement gave him new freedom that pushed him towards often violently expressive abstraction.
At the end of the 1950s, he produced several series of "modifications", paintings composed using old works picked up at flea markets. When these were exhibited in Paris in 1959, he wrote a little iconoclastic manifesto in the catalogue which was testimony to both his biting sense of irony and infallible humour: "Be modern, collectors, museums. If you have old paintings, do not despair. Keep your souvenirs but turn them around so that they match their day and age. Why shun the old style if it can be modernized with a few strokes of a brush? It puts a coat of topicality on your old culture. Painting is done for. Might as well give it the coup de grace. Turn it around. Long live painting!"
Asger Jorn also produced a large number of drawings. Between 1957 and 1972, he donated more than five hundred of them to the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark, which houses the largest collection of his work. It is from this collection that a series of about a hundred drawings was selected to form the first personal exhibition from Jorn in a Parisian museum since 1978.

The Cobra movement:
Cobra was an artistic movement founded in Paris in 1948 then dissolved in Brussels in 1951. It is "free art", freedom that can be seen in the very choice of name: here Cobra refers less to the reptile, more to a tongue-in-cheek acronym formed from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam, the home cities of the movement's founders. In the image of this portmanteau word, the works of Cobra are grasped outside of any signification and give the onlooker the effect of those unknown characters that Dotremont liked to "read": "When I read a phrase written in Chinese, I am on the streets of Beijing; I understand the way I understand a page of writing by Miró [...]."

Tags: Asger Jorn, Fernand Léger, Xu Shun