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A. R. Penck (1939-2017)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
A. R. Penck (1939-2017)

Untitled

Details
A. R. Penck (1939-2017)
Untitled
acrylic on canvas
56 x 56¾in. (142.5 x 144cm.)
Painted in 1981-1982
Provenance
Studio d’Arte Cannaviello, Milan.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 24 June 1999, lot 266.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

Brought to you by

Paola Saracino Fendi
Paola Saracino Fendi

Lot Essay

Born Ralf Winkler, Penck adopted his moniker after the East German regime began to confiscate his works during the 1960s. Fleeing to West Berlin in 1980, he, along with Jörg Immendorff, Georg Baselitz and Markus Lüpertz, became a major proponent of the new figuration that was fermenting in 1970s Germany. In characteristic thick brushstrokes, both Untitled and Rock I evince the artist’s vibrant ‘Standart’ style, a term Penck coined to describe a pictorial aesthetic inspired by hieroglyphs and cave paintings. In the black and white Untitled, Penck represents motion, showing the sequential movement of the artist’s signature stick-figures descending a staircase. A fourth man, the largest, stands in the righthand corner, with one exaggerated arm dragging along the bottom edge. Rock I is similarly energetic: a vortex of spirals, dashes and dots surround a single figure peacefully floating in the wave of colour. These works represent Penck’s artistic ascent during the early 1980s, when he had solo exhibitions at Tate Gallery and Kunstmuseum Basel, among others, and was included in Documenta 7, 1982, and the 1984 Venice Biennale.
Characterised by simplified and rudimentary forms, Penck’s recuperation of ancient visual systems was an attempt to communicate with the whole of humanity. As the artist described, ‘Every Standart can be imitated and reproduced and can thus become the property of every individual. What we have here is a true democratisation of art’ (A. R. Penck quoted in O. Basciano, ‘A. R. Penck Obituary’, The Guardian, 5 May 2017). The stick figure became central to a communicative system that united text, symbol and image, but these rhythmic arrangements also took their cues from jazz music – Penck himself was a drummer and played in the band Triple Trip Touch in the late 1980s. When asked by curator Klaus Ottmann whether he saw a connection between music and his art, Penck responded, ‘Yes, in the rhythm because I am very interested in rhythm’ (A. R. Penck, quoted in ‘Interviews: A. R. Penck’, Journal of Contemporary Art, vol. 7, no. 1, Summer 1994, pp. 80-88). Both Untitled and Rock 1 visualise an upbeat tempo and the improvised syncopation of jazz; these paintings thrum with a universal cadence.

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