Between 1977 and 1982, Immendorff created a series of paintings, drawings, and prints titled Café Deutschland, in which the opposing ideologies of East and West Germany are represented on a metaphorical stage. Uninhabited tables occupy the foreground of this monumentally scaled canvas, upon which candles burn in red, black, and yellow — the colors of the German flag. On the surface of a large freestanding bookcase to the left, Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate is painted, viewed from the west. Small figures desperately scale the bookcase; it is a stand–in for the Berlin Wall, which physically divided the city from 1961 to 1989. A net hanging at left from the oddly floating green ceiling transforms into stick figures reminiscent of those in the work of the East German artist A. R. Penck (Ralf Winkler), Immendorff’s most important collaborator in this period.
The ideological conflicts alluded to in this work's title and iconography are also reflected in Immendorff's painting style. The artist employed the heroic scale and representational imagery of socialist realism, a style applauded in East Germany but considered retrograde and suspect by his contemporaries at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf, including his teacher, the artist Joseph Beuys.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 32.