Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Jörg Immendorff

Café Deutschland (series) Contemplating The Question: Where Do I Stand,
1977-84, Jorg Immendorff

Personal human (and creative) development
Several decades ago, the psychologist, Erik Erikson, proposed an explanation of the stages of phychosocial development covering the human lifespan from infancy to old age (right). Although art has proven to be a matter of life-long development, only the final three stages have any real importance insofar as working artists are concerned--maturity, middle-age, and old age. Erikson, somewhat arbitrarily I think, places the onset of maturity at age twenty. He's a good deal fuzzier as to the other two ages of transition. Erikson refers to maturity as "intimacy versus isolation" middle-age as "generativity (I prefer creativity) versus stagnation," and old age as "integrity versus despair." From a personal standpoint, I'm hardly middle-aged anymore, but somewhat reluctant to embrace his concept of old-age. I do, nonetheless, find myself encountering the constant battle between integrity (making what I've done in life count for something) and despair. If nothing else, I try to do so here in this blog every day.

Gyntiana: Birth/Onion Man, 1992, Jorg Immendorff
Solo, 1988, Jorg Immendorff
Jörg Immendorff was a German artist born in 1945, about three months before myself, in the small German town of Bleckede on the Elbe River (about halfway between Hamburg and Berlin). Needless to day, during the years following the war when he and I grew up, Blekede was not a very nice place to live. Half of the town was in West Germany, half in the Soviet zone of occupation. My own hometown was heavily occupied by a rag-tag army of retired farmers, who...weren't much of a threat to anyone. Immendorff's childhood has been used to explain his feelings of inadequacy and emotional remoteness, or as Erikson would term it, "intimacy versus isolation." Immendorff's Solo (right) is associated with his feelings of isolation.

All's well that Ends Well, 1983, Jorg Immendorff
Hans Albers Denkmal
Memorial, Hamburg, Germany,
1986, Jörg Immendorff.
Immendorff began his art studies at the Art Academy of Dusseldorf where he managed to get himself kicked out for left-wing political activities and neo-Dado tendencies. Nonetheless, he managed land a job teaching high school art from 1969 to 1980. (I taught art during that time too.) During this period his paintings became more and more symbolic and allegorical--personal rather than political. He became a freelance artist, then a college art instructor at the same Art Academy of Dusseldorf that had kicked him out some twenty years before. In middle-age, Immendorff waged the classic Erikson battle within himself between creativity and stagnation. His expressionist All's Well that Ends Well (above) is from this period, a battle between Expressionism and Surrealism in which Immendorff himself seems unsure which is which. His earlier Deutschland Cafe series (top)tended to bend more to his Surrealist tendencies as it commented on the division of the two Germanys. The conflict within eventually came to a head when he stopped painting for a time in favor of cast steel sculpture during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Deutschland Cafe, Jorg Immendorff 
Society of Deficiency, 1990, Jorg Immendorff.
In more recent years, as both Immendorff and myself have come to grudgingly accept the advent of old age (as Erikson would define it). We both have striven for validation, despairing that perhaps our lifelong efforts to say something about art or through art have been largely fruitless. In response, I've written a book (Art Think, right column, above) while Immendorff turned to drugs and sex. In 2003, he was arrested in a Dusseldorf hotel with seven prostitutes (and four more on the way). Gee, wish I could handle that (not really). Also found was a considerable stash of cocaine. Despair was winning out. An extensive confession and cooperation with authorities (he turned in his dealer) got him off with a light sentence of eleven months on probation and a 150,000 euro fine. (By that time in his career, he could easily afford it.) Immendorff also claimed the drugs were to help him cope with a terminal illness, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) which, nonetheless, took another four years to claim his life (2007).


The Rake's Progress, 1993, Jorg Immendorff
The Affentor I, Bremen, Jorg Immendorff
As an artist, Jorg Immendorff was, of course, far more successful than I. He took risks, he knew how to promote himself using the media, and, coming from his insecure background, no doubt felt a greater need for success than I have. I've endured some personal ups and downs myself about the same time he did. I've also been quite fortunate, though, in being relatively healthy. Taken as a whole, these things have proven to me that there is far more to success than simply succeeding. Success is, of course, quantifiable. It's quality factors, however, have far more to do with how the individual handles success than its quantity.
The Door to the Sun, 1994, Jorg Immendorff

 

No comments:

Post a Comment