A.R. Penckwas a German Neo-Expressionist whose paintings of figures and symbols nod to both German Expressionists likeErnst Ludwig Kirchnerand Art Brut. Penck'sStandartworks, which employ a lexicon of pictograph-like marks the artist referred to as "building blocks", are essential in understanding both his process and ideology. Though often associated with the graffiti-based work ofKeith HaringandJean-Michel Basquiat, his style emerged independently as a response to the censorship of the German Democratic Republic.
Born Ralf Winkler on October 5, 1939 in Dresden, Germany, he adopted A.R. Penck as a moniker based on the early 20th-century paleogeologist Albrecht Penck when East German State Security began confiscating his works during the 1960s. Expelled to West Germany by the GDR Communist regime in 1980, he became a part of a milieu of Neo-Expressionist painters which includedMarkus LüpertzandJörg Immendorff. After the pinnacle of his career in the mid-1980s, Penck’s work fell from favor for several decades. In the late 2000s, the artist’s work began to be reappraised as a legacy integral to the history of art. After a prolonged illness, the artist died on May 2, 2017 in Zürich, Switzerland.
Today, his works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Kunstmuseum Basel, and the Städel Museum in Frankfurt.