CoBrA Movement


Birth of CoBrA

World War II left behind a lot of misery and desolation, but it releases “a breath of freedom and a desire to create” in very many artists, told me J. Noiret in an interview held during the celebrations of 60th anniversary of CoBrA. In this climate of newfound freedom, and in opposition to Surrealism of A. Breton theorizing and too “intellectualist,” the painter Asger Jorn Group Experimental Danish painters Karel Appel, Corneille Guillaume van Beverloo Constant Nieuwenhuys and the Dutch Experimental Group, and poets Joseph Noiret and Christian Dotremont surrealistic-revolutionary group in Belgium co-sign On November 8, 1948 a paper written by A.Jorn and C. Dotremont. This manifesto entitled “The case was heard,” ironically refers to the Surrealist manifesto of the movement entitled “The case is heard.” This group of young artists wants to undermine the myth of the artist “super-man” and the rigid rules of classic art that defend the institutions. For them, every man is an artist. They refuse the idea that art is “an activity sterile and dogmatic.” They want to develop a free Art theory, based on instinct and popular practices, and achieve a participation of all creation. CoBrA was born.

The name of the CoBrA movement stands for “Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam “the names of the towns of origin of the founding members. They express their will by this choice internationalist. In 1949, one year after the founding of the group, Christian Dotremont, which is the great organizer of CoBrA, decide to also add to CoBrA the IAE, the “International experimental artists’ desire to strengthen the diversity and openness, and their desire to integrate the group of artists from different backgrounds and cultures. CoBrA and also opposes the dominant cultural role of Paris at the time. Ignored at first, the proliferation of exhibitions and publications CoBrA artists soon earned them the backlash: “We were treated anarchists, conspiracy, Bolsheviks, Communists, but (…)… our fight was a fight art. “(Cornelius)

The word is given: not having a slogan! CoBrA artists want to think outside the box and experiment. The desire to CoBrA is to artistic practice accessible to all and to resurface the authentic cultures apparently missing. The traditional art and folklore, particularly Scandinavian tales and legends, will inspire many. Artistic creation is not an activity reserved for the elite but for all practical. Very politically active, the CoBrA artists also broke with the Communists who opt for socialist realism.

“We have seen, we, our ways of living, working, feeling were common, we agree on the practical and we refuse to indoctrinate an artificial theoretical unity. We work together, we will work together. “(The case was heard, CoBrA).

On an artistic level, CoBrA also objects from side to geometric abstraction, which for them has no connection with reality and the human, and the other extras; they are too directed to the aesthetics and intellectualism. They challenge and question the concept of “Beauty” in the work of art, promoting intent, jet instinctive and experimentation rather than technical research to perfect an aesthetic form. Art must be spontaneous and experimental as the art of children and mentally ill.

CoBrA and experimentation
The CoBrA artists want to discover and explore lands unknown to them, push the traditional boundaries of artistic creation. Activities of experiments and experiences form the collective body of the CoBrA creation. The important thing is to express themselves freely through colors, materials, techniques and words. No matter if you’re a painter, photographer, architect, poet, etc.. The important thing is to speak freely. The CoBrA reverse roles: the artists write, writers paint, painters photographed, etc.. The tables group CoBrA give life to characters sometimes close to primitive art. They also invent creatures and critters inspired by children’s drawings or insane. The bestiary is also borrow Tales and Fables traditional Nordic.During three years, they work intensively, alone or with others (works for four hands).Dialogue and communication are essential for the successful completion of the company CoBrA. The number of participants grew up, it is important to remember and to question the motives regularly and wants founders. Extensive correspondence will be exchanged between the main organizers of CoBrA members. They also organize workshops (10 rue de la Paille in Brussels), panel discussion (Saturday of Atlan in Paris), exhibition brings together international artists and publish booklets and magazines.

CoBrA and editing
Despite extreme poverty and lack of resources, they print many journals (CoBrA, Little CoBrA, the tiny CoBrA, the Library CoBrA) to convey their ideas, visions, and thoughts about art and the World . CoBrA magazine is in turn coordinated by the various partner countries. This review reflects the complex, rich and international movement. In all issues of the journal, we read articles, poems, philosophical essays and aesthetic, and there are photographs and reproductions of many experimental artists.

The end of CoBrA.  A new beginning
In the words of C. Dotremont, CoBrA was “the common market of misery and exuberance.” Deprivation, disease and strife put an end to the group 6 November 1951 with the latest international exhibition of experimental art held at the Museums of Fine Arts in Liege. This exhibition has been very little to do with the original spirit of CoBrA, dismissing writers and inviting new artists to the concerns and different backgrounds, but it can once again bring together international artists of talent want to shake the vision of an art still very institutional. Some CoBrA artists continue to live the spirit of the movement after its dissolution.
They continue to create works “four hands” as, among others, Cornelius and C.Dotremont (“bird paradise dream real,” 1972),
J. Noiret and S. Vandercam (“In the smell of fresh bread in the morning …”, 1983), P. Alechinsky and K. Call (“Woman she,” 1977), C. Dotremont and
K. Call (“Writing black mixed colors on white,” 1977), or Hugo Claus and S.Vandercam (“The Raft of the Medusa”, 1964).
CoBrA has been a complex and challenging experience, full of experiments and inventions (“logograms,” “works for four hands,” fantastic bestiary, etc.) The movement lasted only three years, but this group of young artists involved has left a strong influence in the history of art, and ideas still inspire many artists and artist collectives. Exhibitions and retrospectives were held regularly around the world to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the movement. Numerous books, catalogs and magazines analyzing, describing and celebrating the CoBrA artists and their achievements have been published to date. In the words of Corneille again last year during the celebrations of 60th anniversary of CoBrA in Brussels, “CoBrA was a real headache.” CoBrA was more than a movement or a collective of artists. It was a mindset and a lifestyle. Michel Ragon wrote about it: “Cobra is a less likely chance of a happy meeting.”

N. Delamotte-Legrand

Back to Gallery

Biography by Nicolas Delamotte-Legrand

Exhibitions and Publications

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