Visual Arts

The Painter Jörg Immendorff

The painter Jörg Immendorff is one of the best known contemporary German artists – and one of the most political. Inspired by his teacher, Joseph Beuys, in the mid-1960's the young Immendorff involved himself in West German politics.
In the 1970's and '80's he created his "Café Deutschland" pictures: images that showed everyday life in the two Germanys. In the subsequent "Café de Flore" series, Immendorff relied on images of friends and people he admired.

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Author: Michael Kluth
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Jörg Immendorff studied under Joseph Beuys at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art. His entire collection of work centers on one question: What role can art play when dealing with society's conflicts? Immendorff has always become involved; always sought ways of confronting society's traditional values and norms.

Everything began with the so-called "LIDL-Actions" in the early 1970s. "LIDL" was an invented term which stood for the many attempts made to bring movement into the musty West German political atmosphere. "LIDL" was also a term that inspired discussion. Art should involve itself in the 1968 generation revolution. According to Immendorff, it was time for people to fulfill their dreams. Two of his slogans were: "Serve the people" and "What stand do you take with your art, friend?" The result was "Agitprop-Art", which gave expression to the questions: "what does socially relevant artistic action look like?", and, "what role has painting played in the course of most history?" – Art as both idea and action. Following the example of the Brecht poem, "Fragen eines lesenden Arbeiters" ("Questions of a Reading Worker"), Immendorff gave visual expression to the poem.

In 1976 he formed the "German-German Action Alliance" with the GDR painter, A.R. Penck. The famous "Café Deutschland" pictures were created. They depicted daily life in the two Germanys: German-German history depicted in paintings. In 1980, Jörg Immendorff gave up lecturing at a Düsseldorf secondary school. During this period of creating the "Café de Flore" pictures, Immendorff increasingly began to interest himself in the works of role models and important contemporaries. He expanded his artistic context; history had taken on new significance to him.

Dreams could not – as he had claimed in the 60's and 70's – immediately change a bad reality, but they did retain their visionary explosiveness. Immendorff continues to believe that it is possible through his art to touch the consciousness of people, and to change them. It is a sensitive process of understanding the "picture behind the picture", as he says – in his own individual way. From the time he was a Beuys student until today, Immendorff's conviction has remained unchanged: Art is a means of political and creative expression.
Goethe-Institut e. V. 2006
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Dossier: Media Art in Germany

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