Joerg Immendorff images
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Joerg Immendorff

See also: Contemporary/Postmodern Art


Discussion of Immendorff's "Cafe Deutschland" series, by Veit Görner, from "Jörg Immendorff: Bild mit geduld".

The provocative rhetoric and the bold ideological orientation of Immendorff's Rechenschaftsberichte gives way to a subjective perspective of involvement, which from 1978 onwards can be observed throughout his wish and reality epic of his Café Deutschland series. inspired by Renato Guttuso's Caffé Greco, which he had seen at the 1977 exhibition of the artist's work in Cologne, Immendorff shapes the conceptual building blocks with which he will subsequently construct his first great cycle of pictures. Apart from the initial picture Café Deutschland Grenze [Café Deutschland Border] of 1977, the series comprises numerous sketches and gouaches, such as Hallo Guttuso, in which the stage has already been set for the café. With Café Deutschland, Immendorff designs a fictitious East West German area of action constructed according to the rules of perspective; this area of action is presented as the garishly drab interior of a New Wave bar reminiscent of the Ratinger Hof in Dusseldorf or the Dschungel in Berlin. In these works, Immendorff renders himself and his heroes, encircled by the ghosts of history, as symbolic stereotypes and parallel scenarios deal with the real walls - and with those in their heads. Or he creates visions, concrete utopias, such as Café Deutschland I of 1978, which he paints to the same format as Guttoso's Caffé Greco (282 x 330 cm). Immendorff, in the middle foreground, stretches his open hand out through the wall in an act of conciliation, while Schmidt and Honecker paint inter-German trade and mutual recognition onto the German flag, smiling their mask like smiles.

Even as a convinced visionary, Immendorff remains a sclf critical realist. In Café Deutschland III, Schmidt scrambles away on all fours, Honecker hides under the divided flag, while Immendorff himself has fallen asleep in front of the last fragments of the ruined wall. Above the dance floor, on which the apolitical disco youth is cavorting wildly, an aggressively hissing federal eagle with a VW Golf in its claws is about to fly off to the East. Immendorff, in another role in this picture, stands his ground against the eagle with a raised cudgel in his hand. Only Bertolt Brecht, who was a quiet observer in Café Deutschland I seems to enjoy the privilege of waving some candles, symbolising recognition of the true state of affairs, around his head - a broad hint at the dishonest celebration of Brecht: for his eightieth birthday candles were lit on both sides of the wall. The three-dimensionally modelled gallery pillars, which rise as West East towers in the right and left foreground, represent the protest-singer/songwriter Wolf Biermann hitting an East German over the head with a guitar, while on the other side his pale Western colleagues from the telephone tapping service are tied up in their own telephone wires.

Immendorff's Café Deutschland pictures teem with associations and hints, various meanings and parallel sequences of action lacking any spatial or temporary logic, which only evoke a unified mood, the penny only drops when these works are observed more closely. New metaphors are introduced, such as the East West bracket, the Brandenburg Gate with its four horsed chariot or the table walled down the middle, which can all be interpreted as a seam, an interface between two block systems, the fossilized situation of a divided Germany. Emblematic symbols of the power of the state, such as the Nazi cross, the hammer and sickle or hammer and compass and the heraldic eagle, are employed literally, sometimes in a fragmentary manner, or metonymically deconstructed as real tools (cf. Café Deutschland I), or they are transformed into an ice shape. In Immendorff's pictures, the fantasy of the observer can reconstruct the appearance of the world in relation to a subjective logic, which does not always have to be a personal one. In his 1978 series of gouaches with the ironically didactic title Café Deutschland für Leser [Café Deutschland for readers], Immendorff presents a decoding system for those symbols whose meaning extends beyond a standardised, subjective comprehension. But by repeating the same motifs he can also check the effectiveness of these symbols for himself, symbols with which he constantly experiments and uses in new combinations. By contrast, a trace of uncertainty is intended. 'Of course I sometimes want to make my work inaccessible. I would like it to become more difficult. That's good for head, heart and soul'.

In the Café Deutschland scenarios, Immendorff does not restrict himself to a single architectural recurring theme; the viewer's perspective also varies. Sometimes he rearranges the furniture, as in Café Deutschland X - Parlament I or shows only an enlarged detail, as in Café Deutschland V, in which he places his sculpture ensemble Situation and Position at the centre of the picture. In the 1982 works Café Deutschland XIV to XVI he abandons spatial relationships almost completely, at best hinting at them by means of fragmentary reminders, such as the round tables or a piece of the hall floor of the original Café filling the picture with his main motifs, the Quadriga [Four horsed chariot], the Schwarzer Stern [Black star] and the Scholle [ice floe]. This is basically an exploration on canvas, over several years, of a situation in an interior; the variations on the same theme are comparable with a basic beginners' course culminating in the examination.

In the works dating from 1977 to 1983, whose main theme is the Café Deutschland, thickly applied, broken colours in various nuances of light and shade predominate; pure, brilliant, unmixed colours are nowhere to be seen. The diluted synthetic resin paint applied in several layers results in a smooth, almost textureless surface. Immendorff paints fast. Sections painted in generous, broad brush strokes which become almost unrecognisable, pure allusion at the edges, are combined with details applied with almost draughtsmanlike precision.

Immendorff Images

1978 Cafe Deutschland I
1978 Cafe Deutschland II
1978 Cafe Deutschland IV
1980 Cafe Deutschland - Cafeprobe
1988 Solo

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