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Café Deutschland

On View
Michael Werner
September 11 – November 1, 2014
New York

Van Gogh’s “The Potatoes Eaters” displays the physiognomies of things.
In Immendorff’s picture of “Mahlzeit” beings are an urgent matter:
What needs to be put on the tabletop? The table their altar,
The food is a sacrament of their labor,
Except this is a table of complete anarchy.
Hot, melting objects of discontentment,
Disguised in a magnificent mess of slippery gray. Dog looking up
With monumental expectation while the men in silhouette
                                                             Make endless VOWS ABOUT NOTHING.

Here we meet again in this large tableau where everything is
Dictated by its own drama and the biographical narrative refuses
To be told in three acts. He, she, they play like children
When they’re most fiercely rebellious against authority,
                Like the four boys in Jean Vigo’s long ago “ZERO DE CONDUITE.”

In this reincarnation, the painter offers the intractable series,
 Café Deutschland, as a personal declaration of independence from
Lifeless renditions of polite irony that flirt with institutional repression.

Here people desire to dance desperately. Show off tattoos, run after a cock, and whatnot in some
Unnamable space where we haven’t been before. Barb wire, a reflection
                                                That does not resemble a real-life SHITUATION.
Oh, no! the rocks are flying again. Reading newspaper
Is not a peaceful activity when the noise is perpetually loud
As though……………………………LIGHT & DARK are bound to upset heaven.

He was never told “5 Years’ Time” is Time enough to graduate from childhood.


He was never told a paintbrush can bend
To turn stagnant air into a vortex:
“System Clamp–East” and “System Clamp–West.”


He was never told “Half an Eagle” can turn into a swan.


He was never told about such metamorphoses.
Perhaps Freud’s obsession with Leonardo’s “The Virgin and
Child with St. Anne” was based on a mistranslation of
The word nibbio in Italian, which means a kite not a vulture,
                                               PROPRIO PROGRAMMATICO to say the least.


He was never told the collision of Light & Dark can make Men and women suspend in midair.
Their daily lives seem permeated like actual dramas
That only Heinrich von Kleist would have immensely liked.
Totem-like trees with Swastika growing on top of table
Like palm trees in Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Hands of autoeroticism order images that turn quasi-visible in the
“ADORATION OF THE CONTENT” like De Kooning experienced
                                                                              “CONTENT IS A GLIMPSE.”

Avoid conforming to any system (the system clamps both
Sides of the coin). Feathers, claws, pandemonium of images that
Don’t always agree to be congenial to each other.
Wings grow out of a grown man’s back who sits on the stool
In a bar drinking, thinking whether he can fly up to the sun
For the last time only to be burned like the boy in
Bruegel’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.”

These paintings are like fat sitting on top of a slow burner. They melt for
The posterity of those who still remember Fichte’s aphorism,

“Food is not what I hunger for, it is made food by my hunger.”

Jorg Immendorff,
Jorg Immendorff, "Mahlzeit (Meal)," 1978. Acrylic on canvas, 59 x 59". Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London.

Jorg Immendorff,
Jorg Immendorff, "Anbetung des Inhalts (Adoration of the Content)," 1985. Oil on canvas, 78 3/4 x 98 1/2". Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London.


Phong Bui

Phong H. Bui is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2014

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