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AR Penck

AR Penck Biography

Born Dresden (GERMANY) 1939

Born as Ralph Winkler in 1939, the young A.R. Penck was strongly shocked by the bombing of Dresden and the almost total destruction of his city. From 1961 on, he started painting some Weltbilder (Pictures of the World) haunted by images of cavemen. In 1969, he took the fictitious name of A.R. Penck (borrowed from the geographer Albrecht Penck originating from Dresden, glaciation specialist).

He finalized a pictorial language composed of elementary signs and symbols. In 1970, he defined in his publications the concept Standart ("a picture one can perceive and imitate"), to clarify the philosophical meaning of his iconography. Then he started painting black and white canvases filled with entangled hieroglyphs. In 1973, under the name of Mike Hammer, he realized some more abstract gestural series in black and white.

In the 1980s he became known worldwide for paintings with pictographic, neo-primitivist imagery of human figures and other totemic forms. He was included in many important shows both in London and New York but was somewhat over-shadowed by the work of Keith Haring, whose work bore a superficial resemblance to Penck's, particularly after Haring's early death from AIDS in the late 1980s. After the dismissal of his East German nationality, he chose the exile and became one of the key figures of the Neo-Expressionism. He went then back to his archetypal characters in very big formats and in colorful canvases. Penck currently lives and works in Berlin, Hamburg and Dublin.

Penck's sculptures, though less familiar, evoke the same primitive themes as his paintings and drawings and use common everyday materials such as wood, bottles, cardboard boxes, tin cans, masking tape, tinfoil, wire and are crudely painted and assembled. Despite the anti-art aesthetic the rough and ready quality of their construction, they have the same symbolic, archetypal anthropomorphic forms as his flat symbolic paintings. The paintings are influenced by Paul Klee's work and mix the flatness of Egyptian or Mayan writing with the crudity of the late black paintings by Jackson Pollock. The sculptures are reminiscent of the stone heads of Easter Island and other prehistoric Oceanic art.

A.R. Penck lives and works in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Dublin and New York.

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  • 1939 - Born Ralf Winkler
  • 1982 - Participation in documenta 7 in Kassel. First publication of the newspaper "Krater und Wolke" which is edited by A.R. Penck.
  • 1987 - Settles in Ireland, in Dublin
  • 1988 - Professorship at the Art Academy Dusseldorf, Germany

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