Kerry Greaves joins us to discuss her new book exploring the Helhesten (The Hell-Horse), an avant-garde artists’ collective active during the Nazi occupation of Denmark, and one of the few tangible connections between radical European art groups from the 1920s to the 1960s. The development of this collective is inextricably bound to the ambiguity of the Danish occupation, as the Danish artists lived through political, social, and cultural upheaval while continuing to make art.
The Danish Avant-Garde and World War II: The Helhesten Collective (London and New York: Routledge, 2019) is the first book to focus on Helhesten (The Hell-Horse), an avant-garde artists’ collective active during the Nazi occupation of Denmark that was led by the future Cobra and Situationist artist Asger Jorn.
During the war, the Danes enacted specific forms of resistance towards the established art world as well as the Danish government and the National Socialists. Artists’ deliberately unskilled painterly abstraction, embrace of the tradition of dansk folkelighed (the popular) and its iterations of egalitarianism and consensus reform, called for the political relevance of art and interrogated the ideologies underlying culture itself.
Following the discussion, copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing.
“Dr. Greaves illuminates the group’s brilliant and strategic uses of Danish history, symbolism, and values, as well as the cultural aesthetics of the Nazi occupiers, in their cultural work between 1941 and 1945.”—Patricia G. Berman, Wellesley College
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kerry Greaves is a former ASF and Fulbright Fellow to Denmark. She is currently Novo Nordisk Foundation Mads Øvlisen Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Art History at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen.
She is completing a book on twentieth-century Nordic women artists.