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Published in 1982
100 pages, fully illustrated
Softcover, 8.25 x 10 inches
Asger Jorn was a cofounder of the Cobra group in 1948 and is one of the best-known, avant-garde artists in postwar Northern Europe. His work, which is often dark with a humorous sensibility, is displayed here in color and black-and-white images. Troels Andersen's essay, "Asger Jorn: The Formative Years," bridges the gap between Jorn's artistic debut and the featured works of the 1950s. The catalogue also includes an expansive, illustrated chronology, exhibition history, and bibliography. This catalogue is part one of a three-volume, boxed set along with Öyvind Fahlström and Sleeping Beauty—Art Now, all of which were represented in the series Northern Visions, an exhibition series that examined Northern European artwork chronologically from the mid-20th century until 1982, when these catalogues were published.
[Asger] Jorn had hardly come to terms with his figurative repertoire when he began to feel hostile towards it. He often returned and overpainted parts of a picture: usually only the edges or background of a canvas, but he was capable of throwing synthetic paint over parts of the figure compositions (during the fifties) in a quasi-destructive gesture. A prime target was his big composition from 1956, The Retreat from Russia (La ritirata di Russia). A year later he obliterated the whole surface under a layer of white, which he applied with a roller or similar implement. From now on subject matter and style became more closely equated. After several years of work Jorn finally gave the picture its title Stalingrad. The starting point in 1956 had been the stories told to him by an Italian friend, Umberto Gambetta, who had served with an Italian regiment in front of Stalingrad. Afterwards followed years of detention in Russian prisoner-of-war camps—experiences that few men survived. References to these events were recorded on the original canvas (now obliterated) causing Gambetta to speak of the picture as "my portrait." Jorn thereupon blotted out the specific personal references in order to increase the universal validity of the painting. He often returned to this canvas, the last time being a few months before his death, when he added a series of black dots (representing houses) to the troubled scene.