Artistic Engagement as Experimentalism in CoBrA's Abstract Expressionism
The art of engagement fundamentally differentiates CoBrA from American abstract expressionism. The European version explicitly defines artistic practice as continual experimentation that must be connected to and informed by historical, social and political relevance. American abstract expressionism, which at first sight appears to be artistically more revolutionary, begins to resemble a jumble of empty technical gestures grounded in a socially detached aesthetic theory containing neither historical concreteness nor human potential. Through a discussion on the paintings and writings of these artists, as well as an examination of the scholarly and art historical documents this thesis will be defended by an examination of how and why the central premise of the CoBrA lies in the possibility of an alliance between “the people” and art, and presupposes that men and women can, through radically different collective practice - organic and experimental cooperation - unlearn the language, concepts and images that sustain advanced capitalist societies. For CoBrA artistic practice involves the ongoing dialectical creation of an art that will show the world, not as an object of domination, but as a subject of transcendence and liberation.
Keywords: CoBrA, Praxis, Abstract Expressionism, Sociology of Art
Dr. Janet M. C. Burns
Professor, University of New Brunswick