A.R. Penck at the Albertinum Dresden

„Ich aber komme aus Dresden (check it out man, check it out)."

It all started in Dresden - with an act of artistic self-assertion. Excluded from the Academy and the official art market in the GDR, Ralf Winkler (1939-2017), who would later become world-famous as A.R. Penck, declared himself an artist on his own authority. 

He occupied the "underground" art scene and generated a body of works that was both prolific and versatile, as a painter and illustrator, sculptor and printmaker, Super 8 filmmaker, musician and author. In his life and his artistic practices, he combined analytical and pictorial thinking. He fused ideas from philosophy, natural science, information theory and technology with old and new strategies of image making, as well as awareness of social and artistic issues, to create a multimedia concept of "Visuelles Denken" [visual thinking] - thinking in pictures.


On the basis of selected works, the exhibition explores Penck's period in Dresden up to his departure from the GDR in 1980 - from his early interest in Rembrandt and Picasso, the development of his 'World' and 'System' paintings motivated by the division of Germany and the universal sign language of his 'Standart' concept with his signature stick figures, right up to the "Ende im Osten" [End in the East]. Penck's development is also inconceivable without his collaboration with other artists in self-organized groups and projects. In the 1950s, the circle of young art enthusiasts around Jürgen Böttcher offered him initial orientation and encouragement. In 1971, the artist group "Lücke" came together for collaboration and joint exhibitions, and in 1978 Penck was one of the founding members of the Dresden Obergrabenpresse, an independent printing workshop.

The exhibition focuses on rarely shown artist books, the rediscovered Super 8 films and Penck's energetic activities as a musician. The Super 8 films were made in collaboration with Wolfgang Opitz at the end of the 1960s and are the earliest examples of art films shot in this narrow format in the GDR. A passionate "dilettante", Penck played various instruments, including piano, drums and guitar, and performed in changing formations with professional musicians and fellow artists. His "Archaik-Fri-Jazz" promoted total improvisation ranging from sound generation to destruction. The first of more than 50 records - recorded in the East and pressed in the West - was released in 1979.

When Penck had to leave the GDR in 1980, he had long since won fame and recognition as an artist in West Germany without ever having been there. Many of his works created in Dresden were hardly seen by anyone in the East at that time, whereas in the West they were exhibited and collected from the late 1960s onwards. As a pioneer of non-conformist artistic selfassertion in the GDR, he influenced the next generation of artists in Dresden and beyond well into the 1980s. Additionally, the new documentary film by the director and author Thomas Claus, made with the support of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, celebrates its premiere in this exhibition. Thanks to previously unpublished material and insightful interviews with contemporary witnesses, this documentary offers new perspectives on A.R. Penck's life and work before 1980.  

October 5, 2019