This retrospective exhibition devoted to the work of Jörg Immendorff (Bleckede, Germany, 1945 –Düsseldorf, Germany, 2007) surveys a career spanning more than four decades, setting forth the key stages and transformations in the artist’s work: from the sociopolitical and political upheaval works he conceived between the 1960s and early 1980s, to the encoded paintings in the latter stages of his output.

At the end of the 1970s, Immendorff’s outlook as a political activist, teacher and artist strongly shifted in focus. In 1976, a pivotal year in his career, he took part in the Venice Biennale with an action that involved handing out flyers which criticised the German Democratic Republic’s deprivation of liberty and called for the cooperation of international artists to turn the situation around. Two years later, he began Café Deutschland, a series based on Renato Guttuso’s Caffè Greco (1976) which he had seen displayed in Cologne. In the series, the hallmarks and characteristic colours of his painting take on greater expression as he breaks away from ideological symbols – his art was still political but now distanced from current events.

This turning point in the artist’s work, based on a concentration of form and content, made headway until it gave rise to a final stage in his oeuvre, defined by the “purification” of visual language which saw his work gain renewed pictorial energy and greater luminosity. As Immendorff defined it: “I’m glad that this radical concentration has meant we have left behind the question about the narrative thread. Gradually, I have suppressed the narrative glitz in order for form and colour to become the focus of attention naturally”.

Rather than follow a strict chronology, the show, which welcomes in the region of one hundred works by the artist in an array of mediums — painting, sculpture, drawings — is organised around different themed chapters, threaded together with the evolution and processes of change in Immendorff’s art.