cologne

A. R. Penck

Neue Nationalgalerie

Since 1980, when A.R. Penck moved from East to West Germany, he has become one of the most important painters in contemporary German art. The 137 paintings, drawings, and watercolors in this retrospective impressively document his development. From its start in the early ’60s, Penck’s oeuvre as a whole has constituted a discourse, for the works coalesce into something like an overall text. At the core of Penck’s art is a yearning for a universal human sign-language. The “system paintings,” as the artist calls them, transmit signals and information concerning social as well as historical conditions. The goal of these works, however, is not a mere depiction of reality; instead Penck aims to transform the world through them. To this end, he has developed a pictorial language consisting of simple signs. He shows “little line men” and pictorial symbols arranged in highly readable scenes and

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