Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction


A. R. Penck
1939 - 2017
signed; signed and titled on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
170 by 240 cm. 67 by 94 1/2 in.
Executed in 1990.
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Galleria Cleto Polcina, Rome
Mario Valentino, Naples
Thence by descend to the present owner  


Rome, Galleria Cleto Polcina, Penck Incontra Roma, October - November 1990, n.p., illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1990, the same year as Germany’s reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Una Giornata ad Ansedonia, is a primary example of A. R. Penck’s complex world of ancient symbols and systems. Exiled from East Germany in 1980 and expatriated to the West, the present was executed at a time when Penck re-examined his pictorial language and when his feeling of isolation was transformed into a strong sense of dislocation. The reduction of means and scarce use of paint in the East was now followed by an extravagant use of acrylic and oil, which is perfectly exemplified in the opulent, rich layers of paint in the present work.

Cut off from the developments happening in the Western world and away from fellow abstract painters such as Jackson Pollock and Jean Dubuffet, Penck had created his own language and imagery; a world dominated by systems. Creating his ‘Standart’ language in 1965, Penck thought to construct a new art system that would be understood by all viewers and at the same time was not based on art theory, but rather derived from scientific principles. “I still see my work as pictorial research. The main experiment: the viewing of a picture by the viewer.” (A. R. Penck cited in: Ingrid Peiffer and Max Hollein, Eds., A.R. Penck Retrospektive, Dusseldorf 2007, p. 29). Obsessed by advancements in theoretical physics and mathematics, Penck became preoccupied with using numbers and sequences in his works, which can be seen on the left hand side of the present work. As explained by Ingrid Pfeiffer: "Penck sought to achieve two aims: first, to introduce the logical and the systematic into the realm of art, which had hitherto been reserved for emotion and intuition, and, second, to create works that would communicate with the viewer... to create new (art) systems, a "language," something that was objectifiable and, in a democratic sense, readable and understandable to all viewers" (Ibid., p. 36). However, although the characters of the present painting seem engaged in a specific narrative, it is nevertheless an ambiguous picture that traverses figuration and abstraction to afford an array of subjective responses. While implying meaning, Penck's work is never didactic or deterministic, and although allegorical content is possible, his art invites a wide spectrum of interpretation.

Penck’s interest in the primitive does not represent a return to the past, but rather a recovery of the past. His paintings gave him a way of codifying and communicating both experiences and ideological theories, confronting his turbulent past. Today mentioned along fellow Neo-Expressionists like Sigmar Polke and Anselm Kiefer, A. R. Penck has become known for his balance between pictorial figuration and abstraction while not following anyone’s aesthetic ideal.

Contemporary Art Day Auction