In his life and art, Paul Thek defied categories. He began his career crafting realistic sculptures of raw meat and ended it painting lyrical images of dust particles. He was a spiritual person, and his childhood experience of Catholicism permeated his work. But he also embraced the counter-culture of the 1960s. Thek constructed his most ambitious works—a series of large-scale installations—from ephemeral materials. Today they exist only in fragments, or as recorded in photographs and film.
Thek was a complicated person—brilliant and funny but also difficult. By the time he died of complications from AIDS in 1988, the art world had all but forgotten him. In the next decade, a new generation rediscovered his idiosyncratic, provocative work. They especially admired the way Thek infused his art with meaning—social, political, and spiritual—at a time when many of his contemporaries focused exclusively on form.
This exhibition seeks to introduce Thek to the American public and to re-establish his place in the history of American art. Throughout the tour, you will hear excerpts from interviews with exhibition curators, Elisabeth Sussman and Lynn Zelevansky, and Thek’s friends, artist Neil Jenney and literary scholar Ed Burns. Burns will also read quotes from the artist’s extensive writings.