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Kunsthaus Zurich Opens Encoding Reality an Exhibition Featuring Weltbild by A.R. Penck

Kunsthaus Zürich presents ‘Encoding Reality’ – an exhibition featuring ‘Weltbild’ by A.R. Penck as Kunsthaus Zürich presents ‘Encoding Reality’ – an exhibition featuring ‘Weltbild’ by A.R. Penck.

From 11 November 2011 to 12 February 2012 the Kunsthaus Zürich presents the exhibition ‘Encoding Reality,’ the latest in the ‘Picture Ballot!’ series. Taking as its starting point the painting ‘Weltbild’ (World Picture, 1961) by A.R. Penck and the pictographically encoded visual idiom in modern art, it explores works from Paul Klee, Joan Miró, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and others. Like Penck, these artists developed a language that was part figurative representation and part abstraction. The exhibition reveals the methods chosen by artists in different generations and programmes to encode reality.

‘WELTBILD’ – A BASIS IN THEORY At the heart of the exhibition, which includes about 20 paintings, sculptures and works on paper, is a work by Ralf Winkler, better known under the pseudonym A.R. Penck. He was born in Dresden in 1939 and spent the first forty years of his life in the GDR. Influenced by cybernetics and sociological systems theory, Penck developed a pictographic idiom that sets out to analyse the relationships between the individual and society. Its aesthetic evokes associations with cave painting. Penck unites his idiosyncratic social and political theories under the titles ‘Weltbild,’ ‘Systembild’ und ‘Standart’ (World Picture, System Picture and Standard). He attempts both to introduce a logical and systematic, almost scientific dimension into the world of art, and to democratize art by creating works that are capable of communicating with the general public.

A HISTORY PAINTING OF THE COLD WAR ‘Weltbild’ was painted in 1961 and is the first of Penck’s works in which he deploys his visual language of symbols and pictograms. Created at the time when the Berlin Wall was being built, ‘Weltbild’ is a modern history painting that speaks of the tense relationship between East and West during the Cold War. Measuring 122 x 160 cm, it depicts two opposing groups of black stick figures against a white background. The figures, representing archetypes of human existence, adopt various postures – attacking, defending themselves, loving, pleading – and symbolize the attitudes and behaviour of human beings towards totalitarian systems. Weapons and means of communication, espionage equipment and instruments of torture as well as signs proclaiming mathematical truths dominate this undefined, timeless landscape. The black and red ground stabilizes the composition, which consists mainly of isolated figures, but these dancers on the volcano’s rim enjoy only the appearance of security. An eruption appears imminent.

Kunsthaus Zürich, Heimplatz 1, CH–8001 Zurich Tel. +41 (0)44 253 84 84,

A. R. Penck (Ralf Winkler)
Weltbild, 1961
Oil on hardboard, 122 x 160 cm
Kunsthaus Zürich, Vereinigung Zürcher Kunstfreunde
© 2011 ProLitteris, Zürich

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