A.R. Penck, German (1939 - 2017)

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Ralf Winkler, alias A.R. Penck (born 5 October 1939) is a German painter, printmaker and sculptor.

He was born in Dresden, Germany, and studied together with a group of other neo-expressionist painters in Dresden. He became one of the foremost exponents of the new figuration alongside Jörg Immendorff, Georg Baselitz and Markus Lüpertz. Under the East German communist regime, they were watched by the secret police and were considered dissidents. In the late 1970s they were included in shows in West Berlin and were seen as exponents of free speech in the East. Their work was shown by major museums and galleries in the West throughout the 1980s. They were included in a number of important shows including the famous Zeitgeist exhibition in the well-known Martin Gropius Bau museum and the important New Art show at the Tate in 1983.

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.

Penck's sculptures, though less familiar, evoke the same primitive themes as his paintings and drawings. They use common everyday materials such as wood, bottles, cardboard boxes, tin cans, masking tape, tinfoil, and wire, and are crudely painted and assembled. Despite their anti-art aesthetic and 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 often reminiscent of the stone heads of Easter Island and other Oceanic art.
A keen drummer, he was a member and with Frank Wollny co-founder of the free jazz group Triple Trip Touch (aka T.T.T. or TTT) and took every opportunity to play with some of the best Jazz musicians of the late 1980s including Butch Morris, Frank Wright, Billy Bang, Louis Moholo and Frank Lowe, organising events at his country mansion in Heimbach in 1990 involving installations by Lennie Lee, performances by Anna Homler and paintings by Christine Kuhn.

Penck died on 2 May 2017 in Zürich at the age of 77.


1965 Takes part in an exhibition at the Puschkin-Haus in Dresden. Begins friendship with Michael Werner.
1968 First exhibition (Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne)
1970/1971 Founder of the group 'Lücke', with Wolfgang Opitz and others
1975 First major retrospective work at the Bern Kunsthalle.
1980 Left East Germany
1982 Participation in documenta 7 in Kassel. Starts working with iron and bronze. First publication ot the newspaper >Krater und Wolke< which is edited by A.R. Penck.
1988 Professorship at the Art Academy Düsseldorf, Germany
2004 Lives and works in Ireland and Germany


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 - 2000 Exhibition of bronze sculptures in Heilbronn, Bremen, Recklinghausen, Luxembourg, Berlin and Bad Homburg.
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

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