Art: The Plumed Serpents

Their lines lash, writhe and slither like snakes conjured out of enchanted paint pots. Their color is alive with serpentine swirls, and beneath the agitated surface can be glimpsed figures festooned like confetti-draped masqueraders. Not French, though living in Paris, and not American, for all the superficial resemblances to U.S. abstract expressionism, the artists are known by the acronym COBRA, derived from the first letters of the capital cities of their birth: Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam (see color).

These northern Europeans, who claim as ancestors both such German expressionists as Emil Nolde and...

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