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.

Timeline

1939
Born as Ralf Winkler Dresden, East Germany
1945
Experiences the bombing of Dresden on 13th and 14th of February
1953–1954
Painting and Drawing course with Jürgen Böttcher
1955
Begins an apprenticeship as a draftsman at VEB DEWAG (Volkseigener Betrieb Deutsche Werbeagentur, Nationally owned enterprise German advertising agency)
1956
Repeatedly unsuccessful applications to art academies in Dresden and East Berlin. As an autodidactic artist he begins to work on painting, sculpture, film, writing and music
1957–1959
Starts making figurative sculptures and head studies out of plaster. Meets Georg Kern (Baselitz)
1961
First System-Bilder and further portraits and autoportraits
1964
Own studio in Lange Strasse, Dresden
1964
Concentrates on working with cybernetics, other scientific areas and System-Bilder.
Produces his first Standart-Arbeiten and sculptures out of various materials
1965
Takes part in an exhibition at the Puschkin-Haus in Dresden. Meets Michael Werner.
1966
Accepted as candidate for the Verband Bildender Künstler Deutschlands (VKBD).
Rejection by the jury after the three-year deadline for candidates.
1968
Adopts the pseudonym A.R. Penck. Michael Werner displays his first exhibition at the Galerie Hake Cologne.
1969
Exhibition at Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne
1967–1970
Begins working on signalling, sketching and symbols.
1970–1971
Various publications in which the term Standart is described
1972
Finishing of Standart-Arbeiten. Participation in documenta 5 in Kassel
1973–1974
Spends six months working as a reserve for the People’sthe Mike Hammer series which then leads to the development of the TM series
1975
First major retrospective at the Bern Kunsthalle.
1977
First wooden sculpture. Participation in documenta 6 in Kassel.
1977
First meeting with Jörg Immendorff in East Berlin
1979
Releases the first recording of >Gostritzer 92<.
1980
Left East Germany
1980
On 3rd August travels to Lörsfeld/Kerpen (near Cologne) in the German Federal Republic. Awarded the Rembrandt Prize by the Goethe Foundation in Basel. Meets Markus Lüpertz and Per Kirkeby. Visits Joseph Beuys
1982
Participation in documenta 7 in Kassel. First publication ot the newspaper >Krater und Wolke< which is edited by A.R. Penck.
1983
Extended visit to Israel. Settles in London and later in Ireland.
1983
Galeria Lucio Amelio, Neapel
1984
Participation in the 41st Biennal in Venice together with Lothar Baumgarten. Increased interest in music. Joins work on the production of numerous Free Jazz Recordings.
1984–1985
Miniature sculptures in bronze
1985
Awarded the artist’s prize by the city of Aachen
1986
First Carrara marble sculptures
1987
Receives the Nord/LB Prize for art
1987
Settles in Ireland, in Dublin
1988
Professorship at the Art Academy Düsseldorf, Germany
1992
Takes part in documenta 9 in Kassel
1998
Extensive travelling exhibition throughout Japan
1999–2000
Exhibition of the bronze sculptures in Heilbronn, Bremen, Recklinghausen, Luxembourg, Berlin und Bad Homburg.
2004
Lives and works in Ireland and Germany

Exhibitions

2013
ARCO Madrid, Spain
2013
Helge Leiberg, A.R. Penck, Markus Lüpertz u.a. – MALER und BILDHAUER, Galerie Winter, Wiesbaden, Germany
2009
Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures, LACMA, Los Angeles, traveling to Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg and Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin
2008
A.R. Penck: Peinture, Système, Monde, Musée d’Art moderne de la ville de Paris, Paris
2008
A:R. Penck: Die Achtziger Jahre (The Eighties), Julius Werner Berlin, Berlin
2008
A.R. Penck, Galerie Scheffel, Bad Homburg
2008
Being and Nature – The Unknown Penck, Städtische Galerie Dresden, Dresden
2008
Series Drawings, Michael Werner Gallery, New York
2008
A.R. Penck: Paintings from the Eighties, Michael Werner Gallery, New York
2008
Julius Werner Berlin (solo)
2007
A.R. Penck: Der Begriff Modell, Neues Museum – Staatliches Museum für Kunst und Design, Nürnberg
2007
A.R. Penck. Retrospektive, Kunsthalle zu Kiel
2007
A.R. Penck, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt
2006
A.R. Penck, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York
2006
Georg Baselitz, Jörg Immendorff, Markus Lüpertz, A.R. Penck, Shanghai Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai
2006
Beautiful Cynicism, Arario Beijing, Beijing
2005
A.R. Penck, Per Kirkeby, Markus Lüpertz, Gallery W52, New York (solo)
2005
A.R. Penck, Galerie Forsblom, Helsinki (solo)
2005
A.R. Penck: Neue Bilder, Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne (solo)
2004
A.R. Penck: Paintings from the Seventies, Michael Werner Gallery, New York (solo)
2004
A.R. Penck, Patrick Painter Inc., Santa Monica (solo)
2004
A.R. Penck: Constructions, Michael Werner Gallery, New York (solo)
2003
Wereldblik 1968-2002, Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Ostende.
2003
A.R. Penck. Jenseits der Kriege. Bilder aus dem Jahr 2002, Galerie Michael Werner, Köln
2003
A.R. Penck. Weltsicht 1968 – 2002, Museum Küppersmühle Sammlung Grothe, Duisburg
2002
Ralf Winkler. Frühe Arbeiten. Bilder und Zeichnungen aus einer Dresdener Privatsammlung, Galerie im Schloss Wiligrad, Kunstverein Wiligrad e.V., Lübstorf
1999
A.R. Penck. Bronzeskulpturen, Galerie Michael Werner, Köln
1997
A.R. Penck. German Darkness and Contemporary Symbol, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima
1995
A.R. Penck, Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexiko-Stadt
1992
A.R. Penck. Standart-Modelle, Galerie Michael Werner, Köln
1988
Retrospective, Nationalgalerie Berlin, Kunsthaus Berlin, Germany & Zurich, Switzerland
1988
Skulpturen und Zeichnungen, Kestner-Gesellschaft Hannover, Germany
1984
Brown's Hotel and Other Works, The Tate Gallery London, UK
1984
Biennial, Venice, Italy
1982
45 Zeichnungen - Bewußt-seinschichten, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany
1981
Gemälde und Handzeichnungen, Kunsthalle Köln, Cologne, West Germany
1978
Museum Ludwig Cologne, West Germany
1972
Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland
1972
Documenta 5, Kassel, Gemany
1968
Michael Werner Cologne, West Germany
1956
Dresden, East Germany

Literature

A.R. Penck, Ereignisse im Unbekannten, texts by A.R. PENCK and MARCADÉ Bernard, Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris, 2003
A. R. Penck, texts by A.R. PENCK and Bernard MARCADÉ, Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris, 1996