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Indepth Arts News:

"Cobra: Copenhagen Brussels Amsterdam"
2003-07-03 until 2003-09-29
Irish Museum of Modern Art
Dublin, , IE

The first exhibition in Ireland of the work of the radical post-war Cobra group of artists and poets opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Thursday 3 July 2003. Comprising over 110 works by 19 artists, it includes a major collection of paintings and drawings by each of the key figures: Pierre Alechinsky, Karel Appel, Constant, Asger Jorn and Carl-Henning Pedersen. The main focus of the show is on the ground-breaking Cobra exhibitions held in Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam between 1948 and 1951. The exhibition is a National Touring Exhibition, organised by the Hayward Gallery, London, in collaboration with BALTIC, The Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. The exhibition is presented at IMMA in association with THE IRISH TIMES.

The name Cobra was coined in 1948 by the Belgian poet Christian Dotremont from the three cities where the main participants lived: Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam. Explosively expressive, with an emphasis on myth and the untutored art of children and the mentally ill, the Cobra artists were anti-élitist in their desire to address a universal public. Painting and drawing spontaneously, they produced imagery teeming with fantastic creatures and exuding intense emotions, such as rage, joy and humour. Cobra was also anti-specialist and collaborative: poets painted and organised exhibitions, artists wrote manifestos and illustrated and published books of poetry.

The exhibition conveys the energy and subversive power of this influential movement, its experimental and provocative spirit, and its attempts at forging a new visual language in a post-war climate of both austerity and hope. Key publications of the period and collaborative book projects by the Cobra artists and poets are also included.

The exhibition has been selected by Peter Shield, art historian and chief curator of the exhibition, with Roger Malbert, Senior Curator, National Touring Exhibitions, on behalf of the Hayward, and Sune Nordgren, Director of Baltic.

An illustrated catalogue, published by the Hayward Gallery, with essays by Peter Shield and art historian Graham Birtwistle, and a chronology and artists’ biographies, accompanies the exhibition (price €25.00).

Alongside the Cobra exhibition IMMA is also displaying a selection of works by Outsider artists. The Irish Museum of Modern Art has had an interest in the work of Outsider artists since 1998, when it was given a spectacular collection of work by the Musgrave Kinley Collection of Outsider Art. Since then, works by Outsiders have been represented repeatedly in displays of the Museum’s own Collection and throughout Ireland, North and South, through IMMA’s National Programme. Outsider artists are self-taught, making art as their only viable means of self-expression. They are often marginalised through mental ill health or social disadvantage.

For over 30 years, the Hayward Gallery, part of London’s South Bank Centre has played a key role in creating imaginative, high-profile exhibitions in London and, through National Touring Exhibitions, the UK and, occasionally, in Ireland.

Animaux, 1949,
oil on canvas,
84.5 x 69 cm,
ABN AMRO Collection

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