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Vlog: Paul Thek: Diver, A Retrospective

Apr 15, 2013

In this video blog (or, "vlog"), artist and Whitney educator Christine S. Kim discusses the exhibition Paul Thek: Diver, A Retrospective in American Sign Language.

Paul Thek: Diver, A Retrospective

Hi. This exhibition is Diver, A Retrospective by American artist Paul Thek.  Most of Thek's work in this show is on loan and this is his first retrospective in America. He is considered an artist's artist. Art history has largely overlooked Thek, yet over time he has been receiving more and more recognition, making his mark in art history.

Thek's work is quite varied, including small sculptures in plexiglass cases, site specific installations, and colorful paintings on newspapers.

His use of materials is very ephemeral. It is not long lasting, but perishable and given to decay.  His strong connection with an ephemeral, natural, organic approach is sometimes not so apropos for a museum. 

Thek was raised Roman Catholic. In 1963 he flew to Sicily, Italy, where he visited the Catacombs. He was astounded by the 8,000 bodies visible, laid out without coffins. He was struck by the idea of using skeletons as decorations, an idea that contained a lot of raw emotion for him.  His experience stayed with him as he returned to New York City. During this period, the 1960's, Minimalism and Pop Art were on the rise. Yet Thek felt these movements lacked emotion, spirituality, and meaning. As an act of rebellion, he constructed sophisticated sealed plexiglass cases containing different soft wax sculptures depicting bloody human limbs and flesh. These sculptures contained a mixture of Minimalism along with heavy content fraught with aesthetic rawness.

This exhibition, "Diver," reveals some of Thek's personality--he was a non-conformist, a bold risk-taker. He was an artist who made new work by pushing boundaries and incorporating new ideas. This is reflected in the title "Diver"; a diver being one who isn't aware nor sees what lies below, but just takes the leap.  

I'm Christine Kim, CK for short.  Thanks for watching.