Paul Thek: Diver, A Retrospective
Audio Guide Playlist

Exhibition co-curators Elisabeth Sussman and Lynn Zelevansky discuss a selection of works by the legendary American artist, Paul Thek. The audio guide includes commentary by artist Neil Jenney and literary scholar Ed Burns, who also reads excerpts from the artist’s extensive writings.


NARRATOR: On October 1, 1969, Thek wrote a letter to Ann Wilson:

PAUL THEK [ED  BURNS]: Dear Annie, Have decided to stay here one more day or two, because my heart breaks to pieces to leave . . . the days hot and the sea still stays so calm. Yesterday I rowed almost to Zannone, naked in the boat, and stopped at one of the barren rocks on the way and climbed on. Like touching the moon. . .

NARRATOR: The place Thek could not bear to leave was Ponza, a small island off the coast of Southern Italy, where he spent his summers. Thek had an almost split personality: he was worldly, sensual, and extroverted. But he was also a contemplative person who liked silence and isolation. He even considered retiring to a monastery. As Elisabeth Sussman explains, he pursued this more ascetic life in Ponza:

ELISABETH SUSSMAN: He lived very, very simply and he painted very, very simply. And Thek was a person who had always loved the sea and body surfing and loved being on the beach. And so this kind of combination of ecstasy and freedom and simplicity and isolation was what would go into the work that he would do at Ponza during this period in the late 60s.

NARRATOR: Thek presented the works you see in this gallery in an informal exhibition mounted in a run-down apartment in Cologne, Germany. The exhibit beautifully reflected his love of the sea. 


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