founded in 1979, active till the 1990s


A. R. Penck

born 1939 as Ralf Winkler in Dresden; died 2017 in Zurich

1955–1956: Trains as a draftsman at the Volkseigener Betrieb Deutsche Werbeagentur (state-owned German advertising agency) in Dresden

1968: First uses the pseudonym A. R. Penck

1972: Participates in documenta 5 in Kassel; makes three further appearances at documenta in the course of his career

1980: Expatriation from GDR and relocation to West Germany

1984: Together with Lothar Baumgarten represents West Germany at the Venice Biennale

1988–2005: Professor at the Arts Academy in Düsseldorf

Visual Arts

Visual Arts

A. R. Penck’s archaic-looking pictures with their many pictograms and textual elements have high recognition value. A critical examination of recent German history, which Penck himself had lived through, and a preoccupation with existential experiences like hope and fear, as well as with sexuality, constitute the core content of his large-sized paintings. Stylistically, he is frequently compared with Joan Miró, Jean Dubuffet, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring.

In addition to his paintings, Penck was a poet and author, who published over forty texts of different kinds (novels, essays, manifestos, as well as illustrated artist’s books).


Author: Daniela Hahn



After visual art, Penck’s second great passion was music. A dynamic percussionist, he let off steam on the drums and was a wild, driving force in several bands. He took every opportunity that came his way to perform, and the list of his concerts is unending. Penck was as well connected in the music scene as he was in the world of art, organizing a number of music festivals and bringing out over fifty recordings. He almost always designed the LP covers himself. Drums were his favorite instrument. He also sang and played piano, bass guitar, and wind instruments. During a concert he would also switch instruments with other members of the band. He appeared with major musicians like Frank Wright, Butch Morris, Frank Lowe, Jeanne Lee, Alan Silva, Peter Kowald, Clarence Sharpe, and Louis Moholo in Europe and the USA, although he played much more frequently with artist colleagues like Helge Leiberg, Michael Freudenberg, Albert Oehlen, Martin Kippenberger, and Markus Lüpertz.

In 1979, while still in the GDR, he formed the band O.T. with his painter friend Helge Leiberg, composer and guitarist Lothar Fiedler, and double-bass player Christoph Winckel. After being expatriated from the GDR and relocated to West Germany in 1980, he was followed by a succession of other band members, and the group continued to perform under this name well into the 1990s.

In the Exhibition

In the Exhibition


Galerie Benden & Klimczak, Viersen (DE), 11. 9. 1992, with Lothar Fiedler (guit.), Helge Leiberg (tp., horn), A. R. Penck (perc., voc., bass guit.), Christoph Winckel (bass guit., perc.), 53:39 min.

Courtesy: Helge Leiberg

The concert takes place in the Galerie Benden & Klimczak in Viersen (near Mönchengladbach, Germany) in conjunction with an exhibition of work by A. R. Penck. Penck plays with his band O.T., which consists of two musicians—guitarist Lothar Fiedler and double-bass player Christoph Winckel—and two visual artists, Helge Leiberg and himself. In “free jazz” style they embark on an impassioned improvisation that is at times wild, in the process exchanging instruments. Penck sings and plays drums and double bass.

Although Penck thought of music and painting as separate fields, he saw music making in exhibitions as a way of changing perspective, enabling new modes of perception and experience. »Painting and music are two different ways of thinking. But music can change the way people see things. Suddenly the image takes on a new form. I could establish a connection, but music and painting always remain different areas.« (Penck, 1983)


Daniela Hahn