Paul Thek: Diver, A Retrospective

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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.

Paul Thek (1933–1988), Triptych, 1969. Chalk, watercolor, and fixative on blackboard, 39 ¼ x 157 ¾ in. (99.7 x 400.7 cm). Collection of Daniel W. Dietrich II © The Estate of George Paul Thek; courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York. Photograph by D. James Dee

NARRATOR: This image of spotted red mushrooms floating in a vast grey sea replicates the mood of Thek’s installations and exhibitions, which were both quiet and humorous. Elisabeth Sussman explains how the curators have sought to evoke the same mood here at the Whitney:

ELISABETH SUSSMAN: What we've tried to do is create the feeling of contemplation and of mystery that we feel was a component of these installations and to somehow have a kind of informality about the gallery and a kind of an ad hoc arrangement of objects, which is something that Thek preferred as a way of showing his work. So we've tried to capture some of the qualities without reproducing the actual event, which we think would have been impossible.

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