The first extensive exhibition in the United States of rarely seen early works by the German artist A.R. Penck (b. 1939), this show intends to reveal the formal and conceptual origins of an artist whose practice has at times been too easily explained as primitive or neo-expressionist. Since childhood, Penck has developed an intense interest in systems, whether political, informational, or interpersonal. His prolific output during the 1960s and 1970s was driven primarily by a desire to create, by means of painting, a universal system able to address all others – the entire range of social and political issues facing modern humanity. This grand ambition ultimately led to the development of Penck’s well-known series of paintings and sculptures, Standart, characterized by a reductive visual vocabulary of simple, archaic symbols. The works on view at Michael Werner reveal the origins of this language: simple dots, lines and abstract forms as well as the stick figures that would repeatedly appear in subsequent works.