8 November 2014 - 3 January 2015

Preview image

A.R. Penck, Aktion - Reaktion - Furcht, 2011, acrylics on canvas, 120 x 160 cm.

The arrow of time flies freely through space
Pictures remain – form, figure and face.
Deep contradiction between old and new,
Between darkness and light
Spanning the void between hot and cold,
The weight of the unknown plan
Is a token and a symbol of its potency.
A.R. Penck (October 2014)

The Michael Werner Kunsthandel, Cologne, is happy to present the exhibition  A. R. Penck: Between Light and Shadow. A.R. Penck, who celebrated his 75th birthday last month, is often known as the “master of matchstick figures” or the “father of the new wild movement”.  This is quite an apt description of the unmistakable style the artist has developed since the 1960’s, and yet it only touches on the external aspects of what is an extremely complex artistic oeuvre. The artist himself has shunned the public for many years, and resisted all attempts to decipher his artistic vocabulary so interpreting his enigmatic work often poses a challenge.

The contemporary art scene frequently appeals either to conceptual understanding or to personal likes or dislikes. A.R. Penck clearly distances himself from this approach in pictures such as “System – Awakening” (2010), “Uncertainty” (2011), and “Times of Crisis” (2011), in which he continues to develop an abstract iconography which is both symbolic and systematic . The work starts to become accessible when it is seen as field of tension between the individual and his socio-political context: a realm in which there is no certainty, in which everything is in constant flux and ambivalence, where harmony is instable and experience is paradox.

Roberta Smith describes A.R. Penck in the “New York Times” (16.02.2013) as one of the most visionary German artists of the post-war period, and his latest works as the “best paintings he’s made for years”. This exhibition in Cologne provides an insight into this crucial phase of the artist’s work.

A.R. Penck was born in Dresden in 1939. His first individual exhibition was in the Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld in 1971. His work has gained international acclaim and was the subject of a major retrospective exhibition in the Schirm Kunsthalle in Frankfurt. The show moved on to the Kunsthalle in Kiel and to the Musée d’Art modern de la Ville de Paris. This year he contributed to the exhibition “Germany divided: Baselitz and his Generation” in the British Museum in London.

A catalogue with 19 illustrations is available at the exhibition