encoding reality

Pierre Alechinsky - Jean-Michel Basquiat - Roger Bissière - Jean Dubuffet - Alberto Giacometti - Keith Haring - Paul Klee - Joan Miró - A.R. Penck - Louis Soutter - Carlo Zinelli

Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich (CH)
11.11.2011 - 12.02.2012
Curated by Laura Sánchez Serrano

"Enconding Reality" opened up a dialogue between Penck's work Weltbild (1961) and that of other artists such as Paul Klee, Joan Miró, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, Keith Haring or Jean-Michel Basquiat who, like him, explore their personal and historical reality in the form of a visually encoded language.


At the heart of the exhibition, which includes about 20 paintings, sculptures and works on paper, was 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.


Throughout the 20th century there were numerous artists who, like A.R. Penck, sought to break with the conception of art as mimesis of nature. Inspired by primitivism but also by political, social and personal circumstances, they developed comparable visual vocabularies and a reality of their own. This subjective truth, populated by symbols and references, is often difficult to decipher, for it manifests itself in different forms: poetic in Joan Miró and Paul Klee, spontaneous in Pierre Alechinsky and the members of the CoBrA group, naive yet violent in Jean Dubuffet and the exponents of Art Brut, social and provocative in the graffiti artists of the 1980s. Yet what all these artists have in common is an interest in primitivism and forms of art that are not influenced by the norms and conventions of the western world; the quest for universal truths expressed using the simplest of means; the predominance of line, the love of calligraphy and, finally, the use of signs and symbols.