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Thursday, 5 February 2015

Unresolved yet beautiful mysteries: Paul Thek and Basil Alkazzi

I've recently come across the work of Paul Thek and Basil Alkazzi, two artists who at points in their careers have had a New York base and, while very different in their styles and practices, have engaged with themes of faith and belief:

'A sculptor, painter, and one of the first artists to create environments or installations, Paul Thek came to recognition showing his sculpture in New York galleries in the 1960s ... At the end of the sixties, Thek left for Europe, where he created extraordinary environments, incorporating elements from art, literature, theater, and religion, often employing fragile and ephemeral substances, including wax and latex ... With his frequent use of highly perishable materials, Thek accepted the ephemeral nature of his art works—and was aware, as writer Gary Indiana has noted, of “a sense of our own transience and that of everything around us.”'

Thek's spatial installations 'brought the viewer into a world full of declarations of faith and Thek’s private mythologies': 'The experience of an environment was shaped by a processional progression through different stops, as well as the opportunity to linger in various resting-places. Thek saw this as ‘human’ art, because ‘the first thing to do was to humanize the environment; then you can look at a work of art. And, of course, you do that by turning down the lights, giving people some chairs to sit on, and not having the art restricted in any way.’ (Flood 1981, p. 54-55).'

'In the winter of 1973/74, Paul Thek (1933–1988) was a guest of the Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg, where he installed the room-filling environment "Ark, Pyramid – Christmas" ("The Manger")--a development of the legendary "Pyramid" installation realized at Documenta 5 in 1972. This exhibition, organized by the director of the museum at the time, Siegfried Salzmann, was the fourth in Thek’s large-scale projects in Europe, all of which engaged with individualized religious symbols (or what Harald Szeemann termed "Individual Mythologies"). The Christmas season provided Thek with the occasion to present, for the first time, a self-written theater piece in the form of a nativity play featuring children from Duisburg.'

'Thek’s “96 Sacraments” were written in one of his notebooks (#75, 1975). Thek wrote in a journal daily in the 1970s and 80s. Upon his death he had filled almost 100 journals, most of which were black and white composition books.

In the catalogue for Paul Thek: Diver, A Retrospective, Tina Kukielski writes: “Like most journals, they reveal deeply personal thoughts about friends, relationships, and sex, as well as Thek’s private shames and insecurities, and his efforts—like prayers—to be better in every way, especially as an artist.”'

'A prolific and compulsive painter, Basil Alkazzi has exhibited regularly in London, and in the United States. His long and distinguished career spans five decades. His work is in the collections of a great many museums in the USA and in Europe.

Basil Alkazzi's painting is characterized by Spiritual and Metaphysical components which at once make it of deep significance to the beholder. The unresolved yet beautiful mysteries, alive with suspended drama, throb in the air and permeate the paintings ..."His paintings represent the materialization of poems in visual terms unwritten yet redolent of many remembered. Time and growth are instrumental in motivating his imagery." ...

In his recent paintings Basil Alkazzi continues the quest to pursue an intensely felt vision. There is a deep meditation on the flora inducing a strange spiritual calm to the viewer, yet making one look deeper, reaching towards the core of celebration let loose in a sensory world of nature’s own sensual and mysterious Life-force. Here everything connects within the harmony of the Universe at once both mystical and with an overwhelming sense of awe ...

In 2010 he established The Basil H. Alkazzi Award For Excellence, two triennial awards, at the New York Foundation for the Arts. "We live in a fast moving culture that grows increasingly more abstract, away from the physical touch, away from the physical ground of being- away from the act of creation by hand. I want, in my own way, to encourage the glorious expression of pencil, brush and paint, and to nurture the kind of artist and the kind of art that I like and respect."'

'Alkazzi has established the award in order to recognize and encourage the work of all painters, because as he says: “Created works of art are in fact the tangible manifestations of man’s highest aspirations - to create a sort of ultimate beauty and to visually express all intangible and elusive elements.”'


Lou Reed - Goodbye Mass (In A Chapel Bodily).

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