A.R. Penck to Walter Stöhrer
At the end of the 1970s and into the 1980s, the group of artists known as the “Neue Wilde” (New Savages or New Fauves) railed against contemporary approaches to art and returned to an expressive and figurative form of painting. They turned their backs on the Minimalist movement of the 1960s with its formal restraint and embraced the Fauvism and Expressionism of the early 20th century where their colors could again be dazzling and expressive, brushstrokes concise and strong, and canvases peppered with the subjective and emotional. The works of the Neue Wilde oscillated between figurative and abstract striving for accessibility to the viewer and their stark provocation through witty and political content.
A.R. Penck, a self-taught artist and one of the most prominent members of the group, created his “Standart” system with this purpose, i.e. figurative paintings with the simple stick figures framed by mysterious, self-made ciphers and codes. Natural science and technology command as much space in Penck’s paintings as do literature and philosophy, all intent on creating a universal visual language. It is not without rhyme or reason that the figures are reminiscent of prehistoric cave paintings, but his works cannot be simply read as a scene or resolved into a tidy narrative. Instead, they leave us with enduring symbolic enigmata.