17 JANUARY - 14 MARCH 2015

Preview image

Jörg Immendorff, Café Deutschland VI - Caféprobe, 1980, acrylic on canvas, 280 x 350 cm

Michael Werner Kunsthandel is delighted to present an exhibition of Jörg Immendorff’s Café Deutschland. This solo show, which has just been shown in our New York gallery, looks back to one of Immendorff’s key series called Café Deutschland. Immendorff’s new approach to artistic realism can be traced back to his encounter with Renato Guttuso’s monumental works, first Togliatti’s Funeral (1972) at the Venice Biennale in 1976 and then Caffé Greco (1976) in the Cologne Kunsthalle in 1977. Although he was by no means uncritical, his series of paintings produced over the following years “represent a breakthrough in the artist’s work on the level of realism as well as from a political and individual viewpoint” (Siegfried Gohr, exhibition catalogue).

The series presents an imaginary metaphorical café which provides the backdrop for the political tensions between East and West Germany. Inspired by the café-concerts of the 1880’s and the political cafés of the twenties and thirties, this location becomes a fictitious setting for calling into question the concept of borders and reconciling opposing systems. Café Deutschland became a conceptual stage on which political developments, both domestic and international, could be played out using powerful iconographic images. The café itself reflects the interior design of two Düsseldorf discotheques which the artist frequented at that time.

Immendorff’s encounter in 1976 with A. R. Penck, who lived in the DDR at that time, was another important factor. It marked the beginning of a close artistic collaboration bridging the border between East and West. Together they set up an artistic collective and “dedicated their work to the task of overcoming the arbitrary border exemplified by the Berlin Wall” (David Elliott, exhibition catalogue). Due to the limitations imposed by the division of Germany, the contact took place largely on an intellectual and artistic level. Immendorff painted both himself and Penck into his pictures, so that they became at one and the same time the protagonists and the observers of the chaotic events described in the Café Deutschland series. Although they operated in fundamentally different political systems, they both found that dealing with innate political differences and overcoming their artistic isolation gave them a common aim. The early works in this series demonstrate a deep resolve to use artistic means to bridge the divide between the two halves of Germany and represent a powerful fusion of utopian and realistic elements to create an original and individual mythology.

The Café Deutschland series was first exhibited in a museum context in the Kunsthalle in Basel in 1979. It also constituted a central element of the Immendorff retrospective held in the Düsseldorf Kunsthalle in 1982. In the same year a part of the series was on show at the Documenta VII. A richly illustrated catalogue with essays by David Elliott and Siegfried Gohr will be published to coincide with this exhibition.