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Primitivism, Humanism, and Ambivalence: Cobra and Post-Cobra
Res (2011)
  • Karen Kurczynski, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
  • Nicola Pezolet

Examines the issue of primitivism in the Cobra movement and its aftermath, with specific attention to the role of Ernest Mancoba in the movement. The article observes that the Cobra artists were ambivalent on the subject of primitivism--some, like Karel Appel, taking a classic modernist primitivist approach while others, like Asger Jorn, Ejler Bille, and Constant, rejected the racist assumptions of primitivism in the search for a modern "folk art." We conclude that the discourse of primitivism entered a crisis in the postwar period in tandem with its opposing discourse, humanism, which began to break down as a "universal" western system of ideas due to the overt violence of WWII and the urgency and violence of decolonization. Mancoba appears newly important as an artist at the heart of this nexus of concerns.

  • Primitivism,
  • Cobra,
  • Mancoba,
  • Jorn,
  • Constant,
  • New Babylon,
  • MIBI,
  • Helhesten,
  • Humanism
Publication Date
Spring 2011
Citation Information
Karen Kurczynski and Nicola Pezolet. "Primitivism, Humanism, and Ambivalence: Cobra and Post-Cobra" Res Vol. 59/60 (2011)
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