A. R. Penck a self-conscious artist in exile exhibits in Mendrisio

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Abandon all prejudice, ye who enters the Mendrisio Art Museum. At least until February 13, just in time to tour the A. R. Penck (24.10.2021-13.02.2022) exhibition.

A. R. Penck a self-conscious artist in exile exhibits in Mendrisio
/ Forests of Symbols Above, «Ich Selbstbewusstsein» (I-Self-consciousness). Facing page, «Another R.C.», a 1983 resin on canvas

A. R. Penck a self-conscious artist in exile exhibits in Mendrisio

/ Forests of Symbols Above, «Ich Selbstbewusstsein» (I-Self-consciousness). Facing page, «Another R.C.», a 1983 resin on canvas

A. R. Penck a self-conscious artist in exile exhibits in Mendrisio

A. R. Penck a self-conscious artist in exile exhibits in Mendrisio

An acrobatic crane has lowered Penck’s 800kg bronze sculpture Ich-Selbstbewusstsein (I-Self-consciousness) into the yard. As Italo Calvino said, poetry is the art of putting the sea into a glass; whereas for Penck the sea is the world in which we live. His philosophy is a multi-layered and multi-dimensional image system: the «forest of symbols» in which modernity has been wallowing since Charles Baudelaire. First of all, let’s start with the leading icon, the work in the courtyard: it is a historical exhibition, the first one on Penck in an Italian context. The self-portrait of Penck, set in an almost ideal pyramid, is a totem that sums up his obsessions: the little Standart man, a symbol of self-consciousness, a few traces of DNA and Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, whom Walter Benjamin described as the angel of history. History, indeed. The role of the artist - Penck is a naïve figure in the great flow of German idealism - is like to question the meaning of the world, an immense score in which to be immersed: the laws of nature, conflicts, and attacks (the oil painting The Death of Alfred Herrhausen is dedicated to the president of Deutsche Bank who died by assassination). Hailing from Dresden, which was destroyed by the Allies, and faithful to the utopian vision of a classless society but also radically libertarian, Penck paid the toll. He was persecuted by the Stasi, an «asocial subject», as his fame took off in the West, and then forced into exile. Penck - alias Ralf Winkler - was literally an artist on the borderline, caught between two contrasting societies. But quitting the GDR did not warrant for the desired catharsis. Quite the contrary. So, if you wish to remain firmly rooted in reality and be the creator of your own consciousness, as Penck’s mantra goes, you need an artistic style that is a truly dynamic and experimental. He is always suspended in between two extremes: chaos and order. On one side instinct, with its biology and ancestral figures that personify it. On the other, the spirit of analysis, rationality, and the thirst for science (Penck was a student of algebra and cybernetics) with a shower of geometric shapes and mathematical symbols that both extinguish and nurture. He summarises it well, when the Wall fell, in his canvas The Battlefield, which contains the big bang and antimatter, the revolutionist Mikhail Gorbachev with his famous birthmark on his forehead and rounded shapes echoing the numerical mysticism of Giordano Bruno. Having left the East, he experienced the West with its contrasts. In 1989 he allowed his work to be exposed on billboards on US highways, where How it works was born. How it works is the raw images of what he witnessed throughout the troubled and complex history of the 20th century.

Ralf Winkler was born in Dresden in 1939.

He began painting at the age of ten. His only official participation in an exhibition in the DDR was in 1961, just after the construction of the Wall. He became interested in cognitive science and cyberscience. He called his basic theory of the figure «Standart». From the late 1960s onwards he was discovered in the West. On August 3, 1980 he leaves East Germany, an exile, crossing the border on foot. In 1984 he exhibits at the Venice Biennale. He died in Zurich in 2017. This exhibition at the Mendrisio Museum in Piazzetta dei Serviti is curated by Simone Soldini, Ulf Jensen and Barbara Paltenghi Malacrida, and is the result of a collaboration with Galerie Michael Werner. At 5pm on December 19 at the museum, there will be jazz improvisations with Fabrizio Bosso, Dado Moroni, Riccardo Fioravanti and Jeff Ballard.

©CdT.ch - Riproduzione riservata

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