ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT EUROPEAN ARTISTS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: FREE, ESSAYER, TRAVELER, RESEARCHER… AND SO MUCH MORE
Asger Oluf Jörgensen was born in Vejrum, in the peninsula of Jutland, Denmark, on March 3rd 1914. He grows up in Silkeborg, where he attends the teaching school and approaches painting. In 1936 he moves to Paris, where he trains and works with Fernand Léger and Le Corbusier. Within the 1937 Paris Expo he makes a mural painting (an enlargment of a child drawing) for the Pavillon des Temps Nouveaux by Le Corbusier, and works at the Spanish Ambassy as well. In 1945 he changes his name to Asger Jorn, travels across Europe and Tunisia and sets his first solo exhibition in Paris. Here, in 1948 Jorn leaves the Revolutionary Surrealism group and founds with Appel, Constant, Corneille, Dotremont and Noiret the CoBrA group (from the first letters of Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam). The CoBrA experience ends in 1951 but, in Europe, the idea of an art which is at the same time informal, spontaneous, collaborative and experimental goes on. While he experiments with several techniques and materials, Jorn studies and publishes texts about popular and kitsch culture, nordic art and architecture.
Left his first wife Kirsten, Jorn with his new wife Matie and their four children, moves to Paris. The end of the Cobra group coincides with Jorn’s disease and hospitalization in a sanatorium in Silkeborg for TBC. From Switzerland, where he was spending his convalescence with his family, Jorn moves to Albissola Marina (Italy, on the Liguria coast) in 1954. He is invited by Sergio Dangelo and Enrico Baj, two painters from Milan who had founded the Nuclear Art Movement. In the Summer of 1954 Jorn conceives in Albissola the International Meeting of Ceramics, organized with the collaboration of Dangelo and Tullio d’Albisola (Mazzotti). The meeting is one of the first experiments of the just created International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus (MIBI). In 1957, along with Giuseppe Pinot Gallizio, Piero Simondo and Guy Debord, Jorn founds the Situationist International (IS). In 1959, at the “Ceramiche San Giorgio” factory in Albissola Marina, Jorn makes the Big Relief: a huge panel (3x27 meters) in ceramics which is settled at the State Gymnasium in Aarhus, Denmark. In 1957 Jorn buys an old farm house on the hill of Albissola Marina, in the neighborhood called “Bruciati”. With the collaboration of his friend Umberto Gambetta (called Berto), Jorn readjusts the two Ligurian ancient buildings as well as the garden. The coherence with his own theories on spontaneous architecture is evident in the final result of such an amazing space transformation: it is a total artwork, involving paintings, architecture, sculptures, ceramics and decorative arts, surrounded by nature.
In 1961 Jorn leaves the International Situationism and creates the Scandinavian Institute for Comparative Vandalism. He travels across Northern Europe searching for Viking art and publishing books and essays on art theory.
Jorn rejects the Guggenheim Prize because of his idea of freedom and independence. He continuously experiments with paintings and prints as well as sculpture in ceramics and, from 1970, in Carrara with marble and stone. In 1967-68, he is invited by Wifreto Lam to La Havana where he paints the interior of a nationalized bank. Travels worldwide and leaves his second wife to join with Nanne, from whom he has his last child.
In 1971 he receives another important commitment by the Danish government for a big relief (The Big World) in ceramics for the House of Culture in Randers.
Suffering from a lungs disease since many years, Jorn dies the 1st of May 1973 in Aarhus. Before dying, he bequeaths his house-museum to the Municipality of Albissola Marina and leaves to the city of Silkeborg an important collection of contemporary art, which forms the Kunstmuseum (today Museum Jorn).