Artist of the week: A.R. Penck

A.R. Penck (German, b.1939) is a painter and sculptor active in East Berlin during the partition of the city after WWII. Penck’s work is unique for its primitivist stick-figures and signs, and his paintings employ a schematic idiom to convey universal ideas that are not tied down to a particular ideology of national agenda. Born Ralf Winker, Penck started painting at the age of 10 and continued his artistic career even after repeatedly denied acceptance into the art academies in East Berlin and Dresden.

Facing constant repercussions from East Berlin officials, in the early 1970s he started to work under the pseudonym of A.R. Penck, after studying the works of the former geologist, Albrecht Penck. Although he was not allowed to display his work in West Berlin, Penck was able to smuggle his work across the wall for exhibitions, and worked closely with the West German artist Jörg Immendorff (German, 1945–2007), whose work also addressed social and political concerns of the time. Penck used discarded objects as the inspiration behind many of his sculptures in the 1960s, and additionally incorporated wood and bronze into his work in the 1980s. Penck was also a jazz musician, theorist, and innovative writer, constantly returning to the social themes addressed in his artistic works. Penck acquired an exit visa from East Germany in 1980, and since then has worked in Dublin, London, Düsseldorf, and Cologne.



Systembild—Last, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 160 x 180 cm.



Standart, 2011, acrylic on paper, 80 x 60 cm. 


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