Asger Jorn (1914-1973)
Danish painter Asger Jorn (born Asger Oluf Jørgensen) was born in 1914 and died in 1973. He moved to Paris in 1936 to work with Fernand Léger in his Contemporary Academy. The Nazi occupation of Denmark drove him to join the communist resistance movement. Later, he left the Danish Communist Party, devolved into Stalinism, but identified as a communist for the rest of his life.
Asger Jorn played an important role in the emergence of multiple avant-garde movements. The first is CoBrA in 1948 (acronym of Copenhagen-Brussels-Paris, the birth-places of the founders), co-founded with the painters Corneille, Karel Appel, Constant and the poet Christian Dotremont. Seizing so-called ‘primitive’ arts as their example (from medieval art to brut art to the drawings of children), their objective was to find authentic culture originating from the depths of collective unconscious, as described by the psychoanalyst Carl Jung. CoBrA advocates a spontaneous gesture which produces a simplified design, even distorted, of a strong expressive intensity.
The group dissolved in 1951, but in 1954, Asger Jorn participated in the organisation of the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, before instigating its fusion with Letterist International and the London Psychogeographical Association to create, in 1957, the Situationist International, a unifying movement of revolutionary avant-gardeists who aspired to transform society through a consistent practice of aesthetic concepts. Violating the established rules, the movement did not delay in asserting itself in the political subversion that led, in particular, to May 1968, and began to refuse all artistic productions so that art manifested itself in the ‘free life’. Asger Jorn, who did not want to give up artistic practice, was ousted, but in 1961 he co-founded the Scandinavian Institute of Comparative Vandalism to shed new light on the Scandinavian culture of the era of Viking migrations and its links with the rest of Europe. Jorn thus travelled throughout Europe to create a documentary photographic oeuvre which is now located in the Jorn Museum in Silkeborg (Denmark).
Asger Jorn’s artistic production comprises, in particular, two great series of distorted paintings, the Modifications of 1959 and the Nouvelles Défigurations of 1962. He took second-rate paintings by unknown artists of landscapes or portraits and repainted them in his own style. Through this defacement he sought to denounce the endangerment of modern artistic activity due to the new social conditions imposed by the triumphant capitalism of the late 1950s and early 1960s (Grand baiser au cardinal d’Amérique, 1962, Musée Jenisch Vevey).
In 1971 Asger Jorn undertook his final series Dé-collages which he executed in his studio in Villiers-le-Bel near Paris, starting with pieces of torn posters which he glued to a support. The raw material was supplied to him by his friend and fellow countryman, the lithographer Peter Bramsen, who travelled the streets of Paris with his van to collect the posters.
Asger Jorn died in 1973 in Aarhaus, Denmark.
In addition to his museum in Silkeborg, Asger Jorn is represented in major Danish museums and in all major modern art museums in the world: Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk (Denmark); Tate Gallery, London; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museum de Fundatie, Zwolle (Netherlands).
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Art works from Asger Jorn
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