A. R. Penck

  • Born 1939 in Dresden, Germany

A. R. Penck’s schematic yet complex imagery was influenced by his interest in mathematics, cybernetics, and information theory. He used archaic signs and symbols to ensure universal comprehension and to convey political meaning. His spare artistic training included evening classes at the Kunsthochschule (Art University) Dresden (1953–54) and a draughtsman apprenticeship, which he began in 1955. Despite rejections of his applications to various art academies in Dresden and East Berlin during the mid-1950s, Penck rigidly pursued his artistic career and searched for means of artistic expression beyond traditional styles. In 1961 he created his first System- and Weltbilder deploying a visual language that straddled figuration and abstraction. Highly abstracted, two-dimensional stick-figures inhabited Penck’s pictorial worlds and led to the development of his Standart, a strongly simplified pictorial language that has become the artist’s signature. In 1970–71 Penck became a member of the artist group Lücke and from 1977 onward he rendered his signature figures and signs as wood sculptures. In 1980 Penck—whose maverick approach to art in East Germany had always been troublesome—moved to West Germany, where he was appointed professor at the Kunstakademie (Art Academy) Düsseldorf in 1988. Penck participated in the 1984 Venice Biennale and Documenta, Kassel, from 1972 onward.