1939 born in Berlin, Germany
Wolfgang Petrick is a German artist. From 1958 to 1965 Petrick completed a course of studies in biology at the Freie Universität Berlin and in art at the Hochschule der Künste (HdK) as a master scholar with Werner Volkert.
From 1975 to 2007 he was a professor at the HdK, and he has been a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin since 1993. He lives and works in Berlin and, since 1994 has also been working in New York.
In 1964 Petrick was one of the co-founders of the legendary exhibition group Großgörschen 35 and dedicated most of his works to social-critical themes. In 1972 he joined the group Aspekt to further the ideas of Kritischer Realismus. Since then the artist’s work, which includes painting, sculpture and book design, has progressed from an eccentric figuration with surrealistic leanings to a sophisticated compositional style with super realistic elements affiliated with Critical Realism, to an expressionistic figuration that echoes both Matthias Grünewald and Max Beckmann. Petrick’s figures are artificial creatures consumed with sadness and bitterness and it’s clear that the indecent ruins of their bodies refer to the decay of society, a leitmotiv in Adolph von Menzel’s work and quite an obsession for most of last century German painters such Beckmann, George Grosz and Otto Dix.
All the work of Wolfgang Petrick orbits around the fundamental theme of man, wounded offended, invaded by the factuality of the world, excluded from the communication in which living beings share the nakedness and frailty of their fallen state. The human figure doesn’t ever appear in its ideal or regular proportions, but undergoes the tensions of the forces which alter it. The image of the body is almost never whole, but ruined by signs of a variety of terribile wounds. Another process which the figure undergoes is that of metamorphosis, for which we find ourselves confronted by beings seen as if through distorted mirrors or hybrid figures, mutants, hermaphrodites, the most unlikely chimeras in which the aspect of the human being becomes masked or more precisely combined with that of the animal, the falcon, the wolf, the snake or the shark, representing a propulsive force. This fundamental ambivalente is manifested also when Petrick stages the transformation of man into an object, the grafting of the mechanical ad the human, the organic and the technological, which takes to the use of prosthesis and every kind of technological gadget.
In Petrick’s figures there is an element that enters in patent dissonance with their convulsive dynamism and the twisting and the alterations which deform their appearance: the gaze. In faces that are without expressions, like masks, the gaze is immobile, without pathos, turned towards an invisibile distance or seemingly turned inwards. In Petrick the internal gaze doesn’t lead to some liberation, but rather is a metaphor of the separation of the individual and the world. Petrick’s beings have nothing austere and heroic about them, while they are dismembered and beaten, they mantain a detached attitude, because they are at the same time actors and spectators of history and of disaster. With the growth of ranger so grows detachment and, althought we are involved in extreme danger, the only thing that can save us is our capacity of alienation.
Since 2000 he has also worked in photography. He has been designing books since 2003 and has so far worked in collaboration with the authors Hans Christoph Buch (Morovia, Mon Amour) and Bora Ćosić (Alaska).