- Asger Jorn (born Asger Oluf Jørgensen in Vejrum, Jutland, Denmark, on March 3, 1914. Died on May 1, 1973, in Aarhus) studied at Fernand Léger’s Académie Contemporaine in Paris 1936.
During the war Jorn remained in Denmark, painting canvases that reflect the influence of James Ensor, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Joan Miró and contributing to the magazine Helhesten.
- After the war Jorn met Constant in Paris. His first solo exhibition in Paris took place in 1948 at the Galerie Breteau. At about the same time the COBRA (COpenhagen, BRussels, Amsterdam) movement was founded by Karel Appel, Constant, Corneille, Christian Dotremont, Jorn, and Joseph Noiret. Jorn edited monographs of the Bibliothèque Cobra before disassociating himself from the movement.
- By the middle years of the 1950s greater recognition and regular stays in the Italian town of Albisola signaled the mature phase of Jorn's artistic career. During these years he produced some of his most impressive works such as 'Letter to My Son' (1956-57) and 'Verlust der Mitte' (Loss of the Center; 1958). It was in these years that Jorn helped to found avant-garde groups such as the Mouvement International pour un Bauhaus Imaginiste [=International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus] (1954) and the Situationist International (1957).
- Rather than cast Jorn as a CoBrA painter, a post-war expressionist, as is practice in most studies, I tried to place the artist Jorn in a situationist context. That means attention dedicated to his "Modifications", to his paper collages and to his collaborations with various politico-esthetic movements.
The collages, made in Paris from posters torn off billboards and bear a strong reminiscence of the work of the "Affichistes" (Raymond Hains, Jacques de la Villeglé and François Dufrêne) and date from the years following May '68.
- Jorn's "Modifications" (peinture détournée), created during 1959 and 1962, consist of over-painted canvases by anonymous painters. We see the strategy at work in 'Le canard inquiétant' (1959. Silkeborg Kunstmuseum). The left side of the painting (a 'kitsch' landscape) is left unchanged, on the right side Jorn added a huge duck in the pond, together with some swans already on the painting.
- If multifariousness was indeed a leitmotif of his career, its pivotal instance must be his involvement with the Situationist International, in which he actively participated from its founding in 1957 until 1961. There has been a tendency recently to view Debord as the sole motivating figure behind the SI, but while the latter's role was indisputably central, that of Jorn should not be underestimated. In his four years of activity with the group he not only continued to make paintings (some of his best expressionist works as well as the first series of "Modifications"), he also cooperated in the editing of the Internationale situationniste, joined in its congresses and scandals, authored two books of essays (Pour la forme, 1958; and Critique de la politique économique, 1960), and produced an experimental film by Debord. Even after resigning from the SI he continued his friendship with (and his financial assistance to) Guy Debord.
Based on Based on Tom McDonough, 'The many lives of Asger Jorn', in Art in America (July 2002).
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