Sale 18459
First Open: Post-War and Contemporary Art Online
Online 7 - 18 February 2020

Born Ralf Winkler, Penck adopted a variety of pseudonyms throughout his career, ultimately favouring a moniker derived from the nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century geologist Albrecht Penck. Operating in East Germany during the 1960s and 1970s, the artist developed a distinctive style that he termed ‘Standart’. This was a pictorial language of totemic imagery, repetitive symbols and rudimentary stick figures. Like jazz music, in which simple notes and patterns combine to form a highly theatrical apex, so to do Penck’s simplified forms belie a much more theoretical underpinning.

Penck’s reductive approach is emblematic of a human universality. Replete with the artist’s impulsive brushwork, expression and spontaneity, the primitive symbols in works like the present recall the African masks that Picasso and other artists from the early 20th century used as inspiration in their art. At the same time, the dynamism and exuberance in Untitled (Green Man) is testament to Penck’s love of music. A keen drummer, pianist and guitarist, the artist was a member of a jazz group, and, when asked by curator Klaus Ottmann in a 1985 interview whether he saw a relationship between music and his paintings, he responded, Yes, in the rhythm because I am very interested in rhythm (A. R. Penck, quoted in ‘Interviews: A. R. Penck’, in Journal of Contemporary Art, vol. 7, no. 1, Summer 1994, pp. 80-88). With its raw immediacy and schematic syntax, the recurring motifs in this work read like a visual manifestation of jazz’s improvised syncopation.

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