The German artist leaves behind a unique and substantial body of work, internationally renowned for its audacity and universalism. First acknowledged in the 1960s by prominent German neo-expressionist artists, A.R. Penck’s reputation later reached the United States in the 80s, influencing artists such as Keith Haring or Jean-Michel Basquiat. With the exhibition À travers A.R. Penck, Suzanne Tarasieve furthers her tribute to the artist by bringing together works spanning from the 80s to the early 2010s (works on paper, paintings and bronze sculptures).
A.R. Penck is considered a major figure in the post-war German art scene, along with other neo-expressionists such as Georg Baselitz, Markus Lüpertz, Jörg Immendorff, Anselm Kiefer, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter. Having grown up in East Germany, he discovered and self-taught himself painting through books. His canvasses were influenced by cave art. Considered a dissident by the East German regime , he did his first solo exhibition in 1969 at the Galerie Michael Werner under the pseudonym “A.R. Penck” (a 19th century geologist, expert on the Ice Age). Over the years, A.R. Penck sought to convey universal values through an idiom that could break down the barriers that keep people apart.
« Owing to the clarity of its enunciation, Penck’s work reveals itself as prophetic. It expresses the individual’s issues and tragedies, its perception of an ever-moving and hostile world, where each form, each symbol represents hazard or hope.”
Fabrice Hergott, A.R. Penck, Peinture, Système, Monde, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 2008
Penck developed a pictorial language, known as “Standart”, made up of basic signs and symbols that everyone could relate to and replicate. His artistic quest, driven by the notion of a visual system of communication, reached a high degree of abstraction.
Forced into exile, he moved West in 1980. Colour then became affordable and played a more important part in his work; he also started making sculptures, like Georg Baselitz and Markus Lüpertz at the same period. Alternating abstract figuration and figurative abstraction, Penck’s aesthetic vocation was to unveil the invisible and universal ties that unite human beings.
A vocation he pursued until his death on 2nd May 2017. The Fondation Maeght and the Galerie Suzanne Tarasieve have accompanied the eminent artist for the last two solo shows set up in France while he was still alive.
Born in Dresden in 1939, A.R. Penck worked and lived in Dublin. He died on 2nd May 2017. His first solo exhibition was organised in 1969 by the German gallerist Michael Werner. As of the early 1980s, Penck’s reputation grew internationally. In 1981, Penck had his first museum exhibition at the Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle in Cologne. That same year, he was awarded the Rembrandt prize by the Goethe Foundation in Basel. In 1982, he participated in “Documenta 7” in Kassel, along with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Acclaimed by the critics, Penck represented the Federal Republic of Germany at the 41st Venice Biennale in 1984. His first exhibition in France was hosted in 1985 by the Musée d’art et d’industrie of Saint-Etienne. From then on his works were widely presented in solo and museum exhibitions in Europe, the United States and Asia.
In 2007 and 2008 a major retrospective of his painting and sculpture was successively presented at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, the Kunsthalle Kiel and at the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris.
A.R. Penck’s work is currently exhibited at the Fondation Maeght up till June 2017.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by the gallery.
Text: Eric Darragon