1958-1965: With and against expressionism
Jorn got his main breakthrough in the 1950s, but even so he remained ironic and subversive in his approach. This is evident in his choice of subject matter, the titles of his works, and the way he rejected one of the Guggenheim Foundations prestigious awards with the words "Go to hell with your money bastard".
The breakthrough of a provocative artist, Jorn had his breakthrough around 1958 within the seemingly traditional medium of oil painting. However, these paintings are not entirely what they seem to be: they surprise us with their ironic titles and caricatured, graffiti-like heads that poke out their tongues at us or grin jokingly at the viewers. Jorn’s activities with the Situationist International and most of his books all share certain traits: they are ironic, provocative, and culturally subversive. Those characteristics can also be found in his work with oil painting, a seemingly traditional artistic medium.
Critique and paradoxes
Jorn’s critical attitude towards the art institution was clearly expressed in 1964 when he refused one of the Guggenheim Foundations prestigious awards by sending a telegram with the words "Go to hell with your money bastard."
Yet another of the paradoxes in Jorn’s endeavours is the fact that even as he was rejecting the art institution as a concept, he was also in the process of building an art collection with the intention of donating it to his native town of Silkeborg, thereby establishing an institution commemorating his work. But for Jorn the paradox constituted a way of turning concepts upside-down, establishing alternative ways of thinking.