Past exhibitions

Karel Appel | I Do Not Paint, I Hit!

2 June - 4 August 2013

With the exhibition Karel Appel – I don’t paint, I hit! Museum Jorn aims to present a large collection of the enormous, action-packed paintings which Karel Appel created between the years 1959-62 under the influence of his experiences in the USA. The big city atmosphere of New York and his encounters with abstract expressionism’s avant-garde artists and famous jazz musicians changed his artistic expression radically.

Karel Appel (1921-2006) is known primarily as one of the central members of the Cobra group. He was born on the 25th of April, 1921 in Amsterdam, where he also studied at the art academy Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten between the years of 1942-44, during which time he became good friends with Corneille.
Some years later, in 1948, he founded the Dutch Experimental Group, Experimentele Groep in Holland together with Constant and Corneille. The group published the magazine Reflex, and in the same year entered into a collaboration with Danish and Belgian artists to found Cobra (Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam), where the Danish painter Asger Jorn and the Belgian poet Christian Dotremont were also important leading figures.

The exhibition Karel Appel – I don’t paint, I hit! focuses on the time after Cobra, more precisely, the years 1959-62, when Karel Appel was at a high point in his artistic career: He had his international breakthrough in 1954, when he was awarded the UNESCO Prize at the 27th Biennale in Venice and exhibited at the famous Martha Jackson Gallery in New York.
In 1957 Appel made the first of his long trips to the USA, signalling the start of a lifelong connection with the country. In New York he had the opportunity to work at the Sam Francis studio for several months, painted portraits of famous jazz musicians such as Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Count Basie and Sarah Vaughan and experimented with composing and playing music himself. At the same time he saw the works of the great American painters Jackson Pollock, Willem De Koonig and Marc Rothko, and toured around the country in a Thunderbird with his wife. In 1960 Karel Appel became the youngest artist ever to be awarded the first prize at the Guggenheim International Exhibition.

With its17paintings in extremely large format, the exhibition Karel Appel – I don’t paint, I hit! provides a unique insight into a very significant period in Karel Appel's artistic production. While Karel Appel's paintings in the Cobra years are imaginative and colourful – almost a little naive – abstractions of humans, animals and fantasy creatures, in the latter half of the 1950s and first half of 1960 he painted a series of action-packed images: huge canvases carried out with tremendous violence and brute strength. What distinguishes the paintings is the intensity of the colours, their spontaneity, abstract expression, rhythm, and the aggression with which the paint is thrown on the canvas and worked with a knife and brush.


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