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A. R. Penck

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A. R. Penck was born in Dresden in 1939 and lived there until 1980, when he emigrated to the capitalist side of the Iron Curtain. As a young man, in an environment in which any art outside the socialist realist mold was liable to be dubbed subversive, he made paintings whose abstract imagery was meant to render political and existential realities legible. In 1968, he coined the term Standart to denote “a method of making information products,” as he put it in a 1971 statement. Standart was “a production of the brain, made with the purpose of achieving a total perception of its visual information content, and thus affording the possibility of imitation. . . . Art thus acquires an explicitly rational function.” This makes him sound more like a GDR scientist than the proto–Neue Wilde primitivist that, in the ’80s, he was often perceived to be. His sensibility actually combines elements of

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