Asger Jorn Untitled from 8 Lithographs (8 Litografier) 1945, published 1949

  • Not on view

Danish-born Asger Jorn, the initial force behind the CoBrA movement, was a prolific artist in diverse mediums as well as a publisher and writer on philosophy, economics, archaeology, and aesthetics. In 1945 he changed his surname from Jørgensen to Jorn to reflect a multinational outlook and to emphasize his affiliation with the larger European community. While traveling in Europe, he met Dutch painter George Constant and Belgian poet Christian Dotremont, leading to the formation of CoBrA in 1948. (CoBrA is an acronym for Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam.)

After a sojourn in Paris in the late 1930s, Jorn returned to Denmark, where he began his formal study of printmaking at the Copenhagen School of Graphics of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Focusing on lithography and etching, he eventually made some four hundred thirty prints in the course of his career, many in a series format such as 8 Lithographs and others as illustrations for books and periodicals. Jorn worked with major printers and publishers in Europe, such as Jens Christian Sørensen in Copenhagen, Erker Presse in St. Gallen, Switzerland, and Imprimerie Clot, Bramsen et Georges in Paris.

These lithographs demonstrate Jorn's experiments with spontaneous line and semi-figurative representation, two fundamental aspects of the CoBrA visual language. They stand at the edge of abstraction but do not quite embrace it. The agitated and chaotic linear network and the rhythmic sense of movement express a raw energy that Jorn sought to release, a force associated more with "primitive" art forms than with the unconscious realm explored by the Surrealists. The anthropomorphic and animistic phantoms suggested here and throughout Jorn's work populate an imaginary microcosm he called "Caosmos." His creatures and birdlike figures emerge from Nordic legends and mythologies but also occasionally refer to aspects of his personal life.

Publication excerpt from an essay by Raimond Livasgani, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 141.
One from a portfolio of eight lithographs
composition: 12 9/16 x 18 13/16" (31.9 x 47.8 cm); sheet: 14 x 19 1/2" (35.6 x 49.5 cm)
ARS-Verlag, Stockholm
Jens Christian Sørensen, Copenhagen
Gift of the artist
Object number
© 2024 Asger Jorn / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / COPY-DAN, Denmark
Drawings and Prints

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