new-york

A.R. Penck

Sonnabend Gallery

Pictograms are often considered to have a sacred quality, and art that contains them is often treated with a special respect. This is because these signs are seen as primitive marks only part way to writing; they are seen to stand in a closer relation to the world they represent, to be more truthful, more original. Since few genuinely preliterate societies survive today, the holy moment before the advent of writing is now sought in the drawings of children, madmen, and “inspired” artists; it is there that our poets now seek the real.

The paintings of A.R. Penck seem to participate in this kind of romantic retrieval of the lost innocence before communication became suspect through mediation. His life-size stick figures stand there, black on white, as mysterious in their identity and meaning as any found carved into an old tomb. They are by turns passive and threatening, workers or warriors;

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