cobra & the stedelijk
20 Jul - 15 Sep 1996
With about 80 works - primarily paintings, but also sculptures - this exhibition offers a good picture of one of the most interesting collections that has been put together in the second half of the twentieth century.
In addition to the well-known Dutch Cobra artists including Karel Appel, Eugene Brands, Constant, Corneille, Anton Rooskens and Theo Wolvekamp, there are also many works to be seen from foreign Cobra members, among them Pierre Alechinsky, Henry Heerup, Carl-Henning Pedersen and Asger Jorn. The overview is rounded out with works by artists who were closely related to Cobra but who, strictly speaking, did not belong to the Cobra group, such as Piet Ouborg, Robert Jacobsen, Lotti van der Gaag and Shinkishi Tajiri.
The artists, who expressly termed themselves 'experimentalists', published a journal under the title CoBrA (a contraction for Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam). Later this name would increasingly be applied to the group itself. Cobra's art was closely connected with the Stedelijk Museum. Shortly after his appointment in 1945, the museum's legendary director Willem Sandberg insistently brought experimentalism and abstraction in the visual arts to the attention of The Netherlands. He was deeply involved with the Cobra group and maintained direct contacts with the artists. As early as 1949 Sandberg organized the International Exhibition of Experimental Art, with works from artists who had joined forces under this title.
The expressionistic artworks from the Cobra artists gave rise to furious scenes and fierce critiques. Newspapers spoke of offensive art and provocation on the part of the artists, and one evening for experimental poetry at the Stedelijk was the occasion for a public brawl.
In 1996, the Cobra works from the collection at the Stedelijk, which are accorded worldwide recognition, have been part of a travelling exhibition appearing at leading European museums. The works have already been seen in Luxembourg, Lisbon and Madrid, and after Amsterdam will possibly yet go on tour to Warsaw.
After nearly a half century, Cobra is again to be seen at its fullest extent in the Stedelijk Museum.