From abstracted figures and signs A. R. Penck created a universal vocabulary and used it to analyse the relationship between society and the individual. Through his multi-media works, consisting of painting, sculpture, drawing, print, film, music, and manifestoes, he developed an unique style, the formal language of which led to enormous popularity, even beyond the limits of the traditional art system. Although he lived in the GDR until 1980, his gallerist Michael Werner arranged a solo exhibition in Cologne in 1968. In 1971 he also had a solo show in Haus Lange in Krefeld and in 1972 took part in documenta 5. In 1971 Fred Jahn organised his first exhibition in Munich at Galerie Heiner Friedrich.
Characteristic of this seemingly simple yet memorable pictorial cosmos are his humorous reflections, his emotional impetus and a theory that underpins his entire artistic project, one he had been developing from the late fifties on. In dealing with modern cybernetics, Penck found his conceptual inventory, including terms such as system, element, function, information, and standard, among others. This led him to experiment with signs and their constellations as well as the signifying character of signs and symbols. The term ‘system’ became essential and overarching; he referred to the “picture as system – system as picture”. Penck, who was born in 1939 as Ralf Winkler and died in the spring of 2017 in Zurich, was subjected to reprisals and restrictions due to his status as a non-conformist artist under the GDR regime. In 1980 he was relocated to West Germany. This new world of experience resulted in a new type of painting, which, as he himself said, became increasingly more dynamic and abstract. Inner conflicts with capitalism and the situation after the end of the Cold War introduced new themes into his work; influences from free jazz and rock were also present. Serious self-analysis, which Penck had undertaken from the start, regularly prompted him to adopt pseudonyms – one being A. R. Penck, named after an ice-age researcher, or Mike Hammer – each of which stood in relation to his personal, social or political situation.
The TM Paintings, to be shown in the exhibition at Galerie Jahn und Jahn, also belong within this context. They are part of a series which Penck produced shortly before he had to leave the GDR and which refers to fictive role models such as ‘Tancred Mitchell’ or ‘Theodor Marx’. Also on display will be two large-format paintings, shown at documenta 7 in 1982, as well as drawings from the seventies and preparatory clay models for sculptures from the nineties.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue.