COBRA (art movement)

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Cobra group started new, and first of all we threw away all these things we had known and started afresh, like a child — fresh and new. ~ Karel Appel

COBRA or Cobra, often stylized as CoBrA, was a European avant-garde movement active from 1948 to 1951. The name was coined in 1948 by Christian Dotremont from the initials of the members' home countries' capital cities: Copenhagen (Co), Brussels (Br), Amsterdam (A).


Cobra focused explicitly on collaboration, experimenting with different arts and media. ~ Karen Kurczynski
  • The Cobra group started new, and first of all we threw away all these things we had known and started afresh, like a child — fresh and new. Sometimes my works look very childish, or childlike, schizophrenic or stupid, you know. But that was the good thing for me. Because, for me, the material is the paint itself. The paint expresses itself. In the mass of paint, I find my imagination and go on to paint it.
    • Karel Appel, (before 2004); as quoted in 'Karel Appel, Dutch Expressionist Painter, Dies at 85', by Margalit Fox, in The New York Times (9 May 2006)
  • Our experiments [by the artists of 'Cobra'] the aim at letting thought express itself spontaneously without the control which reason represents. By means of this irrational spontaneity we get closer tot the vital source of life. Our goal is to liberate ourselves from the control of reason which has been and still is the thing which the bourgeoisie has idealized to seize control of life.
    • Asger Jorn (1949) in 'Discours aux pingouins' ('Speech to the Penguins'), in 'Cobra' 1. (1949)
  • Cobra focused explicitly on collaboration, experimenting with different arts and media. The artists valued aesthetic experience as opposed to the creation of objects.. .Cobra, according to Jorn attempted to exclude the term 'art' altogether and replace it with 'experimental action'.
    • Karen Kurczynski, in The Art and Politics of Asger Jorn: The Avant-Garde Won't Give Up (2014), p. 77
  • The expressionistic artworks from the Cobra artists gave rise to furious scenes and fierce critiques. Newspapers spoke of offensive art and provocation on the part of the artists, and one evening for experimental poetry at the Stedelijk was the occasion for a public brawl.
  • The radical post-war Cobra group of artists and poets (1948-51).. ..who collaborated in a search for a universal artistic language. Inspired by the creative impulse which they found in the art of so-called primitives, of children and of the insane, the group made idealistic, Marxist-inspired plans for a future in which a new folk art would be created.
    • Publisher-text on the back-cover of Cobra: The Last Avant-garde Movement of the Twentieth Century (2004) by Willemijn Stokvis

'Manifesto' in Reflex, 1948[edit]

'Manifesto', Constant Nieuwenhuys, (1948); as quoted in Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, eds. Kristine Stiles & Peter Selz, University of California Press, 1996, pp. 204-208
  • Every definition of form restricts the material effect and with it the suggestion it projects. Suggestive art is materialistic art because only matter stimulates creative activity.. .Because we seek the activation of the urge to create as art's most important task.. ..the creative act is more important than that which it creates..
    • p. 207
  • A living art makes no distinction between beautiful and ugly because it sets no aesthetic norms.. ..The child knows of no law other than its spontaneous sensation of life and feels no need to express anything else. The same is true of primitive cultures, which is why they are so attractive to today's human beings.. .A new freedom is coming into being which will enable human beings to express themselves in accordance with their instincts.
    • p. 207
  • The chalkings on pavements and walls clearly show that human beings were born to manifest themselves.. .A painting is not a composition of colour and line but an animal, a night, a scream, a human being, or all of these things together.
  • However, painters after world War II see themselves confronted by a world of stage decors and false facades in which all lines of communication have been cut and all belief has vanished. The total lack of a future as a continuation of this world makes constructive thoughts impossible. Their only salvation is to turn their backs on the entire culture (including modern negativism, Surrealism and Existentialism)
    • p. 208
  • The problematic phase in the evolution of modern art has come to an end and is being followed by an experimental period. In other words, from the experience gained in this state of unlimited freedom, the rules are being formulated which will govern the new form of creativity.
    • p. 208

When Young (1971)[edit]

Willem Sandberg, from his text: 'When Young', (1971); in Cobra and Contrasts, The Institute of Arts, Lydia and Harry Lewis Winston Collection, 1974, pp. 25 - 27
  • Shortly afterwards [after 1948]
    artists from occupied capitals
    COpenhagen BRussels Amsterdam (cobra)
    wanted to demonstrate together
    their spontaneous vitality
    next fall in the stedelijk: [museum, in Amsterdam]
    the first cobra show!
  • when the exhibition was mounted
    i felt enchanted:
    red roaring beasts black monsters
    shouting from the museum walls
    frightening visitors
    who had come to enjoy fine arts..
  • ..was the cobra movement
    the prefiguration
    of youth protest
    which took place some twenty years later?

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about: