Art Quiz: The Answer is COBRA

Seeing as to how we were asked to choose an acronym, and seeing as to how there was only one acronym included in the answers to today’s quiz question, I’m sure you got this one right. I’d never heard of COBRA when I took this quiz a few months ago, but I was able to “guess” correctly.

Yes, COBRA. or CoBrA, as it’s sometimes written, was an art group founded in 1948. The towns for which it was named are Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam. The movement was active for only a few years. The founders were Karel AppelConstant Nieuwenhuys, Corneille Guillaume Beverloo, Christian Dotremont, Asger Jorn, and Joseph Noiret.

I was not familiar with any of these artists until today, and I’m glad for that. (Count this fact as my celebration of the day!) I say this because had I encountered these avant-garde artists earlier, I don’t think I could have fully appreciated their works.

According to MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art), “their working method was based on spontaneity and experiment.”

Spontaneity. Experiment. This describes my current art studies perfectly. The COBRA artists drew inspiration from children’s drawings and primitive art forms. Here is Questioning Children by Appel.

I love this! It is so free, so untraditional, so fun! I know that some of the most enjoyable “art experiments” I’ve done have been based on similar, child-like themes, such as my “childish” watercolor recreation of Mary Cassatt’s “Child’s Bath.” I think a bit of this “primitive” spirit exists as well in my sketchbook project of circles.

Now having learned about COBRA and discovered several artists from the group, I want to have more fun playing with simple art, letting my imagination take me wherever it wants to go.

Wikipedia explains the methods of COBRA in this way:

The European artists were different from their American counterparts (the Abstract Expressionists) for they preferred the process over the product and introduced primitive, mythical, and folkloric elements, along with a decorative input from their children and graffiti.

One of the new approaches that united the COBRA artists was their unrestrained use of strong colors, along with violent handwritings and figuration which can be either frightening or humorous. Their art was alive with subhuman figures in order to mirror the terror and weakness of our time unlike the dehumanized art of Abstraction.

This spontaneous method was a rejection of Renaissance art, specialization, and ‘civilized art’. They preferred ‘uncivilized’ forms of expression which created an interplay between the conscious and the unconscious, instead of the Surrealist interest in the unconscious alone.

The childlike in their method meant a pleasure in painting, in the materials, forms, and finally the picture itself; this aesthetic notion was called ‘desire unbound’. The Dutch artists in particular within COBRA were interested in children’s art. ‘We wanted to start again like a child.’

All of this speaks so directly to me and the movements I’ve made in art over the last year. I, too, have started again like a child. I’ve dealt with emotions that felt very uncivilized. Now, I want to play more! I want to draw and paint with bolder colors, create more mythical monsters as I once did for Inktoberand express all the different emotions I feel.

I’m delighted to know about COBRA and its place in art history. It’s going to be an important part now in my personal art history, too.



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