‘Human Animals: The Art of Cobra’ on Display at the University Museum of Contemporary Art

15 September 2016 — 20 November 2016
University Museum of Contemporary Art, Presidents Drive, Amherst, Massachusetts, Verenigde Staten Amherst, MA Show on map | add to calendar
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From September 15 until November 20, the University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMass Amherst will show ‘Human Animals: The Art of Cobra’ featuring several Dutch members of the CoBrA movement. 

‘Human Animals: The Art of Cobra’ aims to present the history of the CoBrA movement through paintings, sculpture, prints, and primary documents including works by leading Dutch artists such as Karel Appel, Constant, and Corneille. It also explores the connection between the group’s work and the influence it still has on the contemporary art scene.

The exhibition reflects the innovative installations of the first Cobra exhibitions that were designed by Dutch avant-garde architect Aldo van Eyck, with a re-working of the “Poet’s Cage” featured in the landmark 1949 Cobra exhibition in Amsterdam. This brings an additional layer of trans-historical dialogue to the project.  

All Cobra art in the exhibition is from the Golda and Meyer Marks Collection at the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, the largest assembly of Cobra art work in a U.S. Museum. The exhibition is curated by Karen Kurczynski, Assistant Professor of Art History and scholar of Danish Cobra artist Asger Jorn, in relation to a larger research project on the movement.

“The Legacy of Cobra” — A Symposium

On Friday, September 16, 2016, the UMass Amherst will host a one-day symposium from 9 A.M. till 5 P.M. at the Integrative Learning Center, Room S140.

The Symposium will present new perspectives on the history and legacy of postwar European art and highlight the impact CoBrA had on later art up to today. Local and international speakers and visiting artists will address topics such as the historiography of the movement from the scholarly and curatorial perspective, the representation of history and memory in postwar Europe, Cobra’s legacy in art, politics, and activism.

  • 9:00 A.M. – Welcome by Karen Kurczynski
  • 9:30–11:30 A.M. – COBRA: History and memory in postwar Europe
  • 1:30–2:30 P.M. – An interview with Jacqeline de Jong

Dutch artist Jacqueline de Jong will be featured in the upcoming exhibition “Cobra: Contemporary Legacy,”

  • 3:00–5:00 P.M. – Legacies of COBRA and the situationist international in comtemporary art,

This panel features Hilde de Bruijn, Dutch curator at the Cobra Museum, Amstelveen, and founder of the contemporary art blog and project series “Hilde Goes Asger” on the relationship of contemporary art to the work of Asger Jorn and Cobra 

Other activities 

On October 6 (6-7PM), Cobra scholar and curator of the exhibition, Karen Kurczynski, will talk about Cobra and its Legacy. In conjunction with the Amherst Arts Night Plus.

On October 14 (7:30PM), The Connecticut River Valley Poets and Theater Group will perform a wordless poem inspired by the exhibition and its legacy. The performance will take place in the cage, a historically accurate replica of the original one used by CoBrA artists. This event requires audience participation. 

On November 3 (6-7PM), Cobra scholar and curator of the exhibition Karen Kurczynski, UMass Professor of Art History, will talk about Cobra and its Legacy. There will be a Cobra Poetry performance in the historical ‘cage’ environment in conjunction with the Amherst Arts Night Plus.


 About the Cobra Group

CoBrA, an interdisciplinary and trans‐national European avant‐garde movement named after its home cities — Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam — caused a revolution in modern art in just three years (1948–51). They were a group of like-minded individuals composed of young painters and poets brought together by an optimistic determination to start over after the war and a shared interest in Expressionism and myth, as well as folk art and children’s drawings. Rejecting both naturalism and pure abstraction at the end of the Second World War, Cobra valued unbridled experimentation and creative freedom, manifested in brilliant, colorful paintings of distorted figures that provided a more symbolic and political European counterpoint to the roughly contemporary “action painting” of the Abstract Expressionists in the U.S.

About the University Museum of Contemporary Art

The University Museum of Contemporary Art – the teaching museum of the University Massachusetts Amherst – is a multidisciplinary, international laboratory for the exploration and advancement of contemporary art. In its programming, the UMCA balances a commitment to experimentation with a mandate to serve as a dynamic teaching and learning resource, affirming the University’s dedication to education, research, and community service.