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The Art Story Homepage Artists Asger Jorn

Asger Jorn

Danish Painter and Sculptor

Asger Jorn Photo

Born: March 3, 1914 - Vejrum, Jutland, Egtved, Denmark

Died: May 1, 1973 - Aarhus, Denmark

"Life is the purpose of art."

Asger Jorn Signature

Summary of Asger Jorn

Asger Jorn was one of the most talented painters of the 1950s, and one of the most talented abstract artists of any era. Training under such luminaries as Wassily Kandinsky and Fernand Léger, he went on to fundamentally influence the development of Abstraction in the post-war period as a fellow traveler of European movements such as Art Informel. He was also a cofounder of both the CoBrA and Situationist International groups, both of which were central to the emergence of a new, politically radical artistic credo during the 1960s. As such, Jorn's work represents a vital bridge between the advances of the early twentieth century and the re-emergence of avant-garde sensibilities in the later decades of the twentieth century.

Key Ideas

Jorn's work is central to the emergence of a kind of Neo-Romantic, non-figurative Expressionism across a range of dispersed art movements during the post-1945 years. Somewhat like the Art Informel artists in France and the Abstract Expressionists in North America, Jorn placed enormous value on spontaneity, instinctive creation, and a kind of pantheistic attachment to a wider-than-human life-force. For Jorn, however, these impulses were uniquely tied to a spirit of satire, carnival, and the absurd.
Jorn was one of the founding members of the Situationist International, a political and creative grouping whose most famous member, Guy Debord, produced the seminal work of revolutionary sixties politics The Society of the Spectacle (1967). Like Debord, Jorn was an intellectual powerhouse of 1960s counter-cultural politics, who developed his own sophisticated political-philosophical system termed "triolectics". As much as any other artist, he was responsible for the yoking together of creative activity and political activism for which that decade is now remembered.
Jorn was one of several post-Second World War artists who found inspiration in so-called "outsider" sources, such as children's art, primitive art, and the art of the 'insane'; he also attempted to breach and break down the chasm between high and low culture. As such, he might be associated with the so-called Art Brut ("raw art") movement spearheaded by Jean Dubuffet in the late 1940s. For Jorn, as the art historian Karen Kurczynski explains, a certain Rabelaisian irony was central to the "outsider" approach: "you can ... find passages of sheer physical humor in Jorn's paintings....You can also find references to carnivalesque themes and popular humor as seen in earlier painters like Bruegel and Bosch."
Asger Jorn Life and Legacy

Asger Oluf Jørgensen was born in Vejrum, in the western part of Jutland, to teacher parents. Jorn's father, Lars Peter, died suddenly in a car crash in 1926, and in 1929 his mother, Maren Jørgensen, moved with her six children to Silkeborg, to further her own education and to try to make a better living for her children. In Silkeborg, Jorn joined the boy scouts.

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