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Thursday, 19 March 2015

Airbrushed from Art History: Paul Thek

'Though overlooked by much of the American art establishment, Paul Thek’s ephemeral installations and collaborative strategies continue to inform and influence a generation of younger artists. (Whitney Museum of American Art)

'Unlike that of his contemporaries in the 1960s who were making work regarded as minimalism, Paul Thek’s work was messy, representational and auto-biographical and involved personal insight and spirituality. A sculptor, painter, and one of the first artists to create environments or installations, Thek came to recognition showing his sculptures in New York galleries in the 1960s. The first works exhibited, Technological Reliquaries, which he began making in 1964 are sometimes referred to as ‘meat pieces’ as they were meant to resemble flesh. At the end of the sixties, Thek left for Europe, where he created extraordinary environments, incorporating elements from art, literature, theatre, and religion, often employing fragile and ephemeral substances, including wax and latex.' (The Modern Institute)

'The idea of “Procession” lies deep in the heart of all of Thek’s work and life, which were conjoined in an always-evolving experience that was ephemeral or nomadic, unfixed, collaborative, full of ritual, and anti-concrete. An early work, Pyramid/A Work in Progress (1971–1972), is a room-size encampment of sorts in which multiple sculptures and found objects were connected by elaborate ad hoc walkways and passages. Begun as a monthlong process of environmental creation with the loose cadre of artists known as Artist’s Co-op, the work was called by Thek both a “time temple” and a “life theatre” and exemplified his approach to mythic, personal art as well as camp theatricality, sensual spirituality, and communal creativity.' (Walker Art Center)

'Thek once told Swiss art historian and curator Harald Szeemann, "Art is Liturgy, and if the public responds to their sacred character, then I hope I realized my aim, at least at that instance." To Thek, a Brooklyn-born boy raised Catholic, art had to have a religious aspect, usually one that revolved around martyrdom or decay.' (Out)

Dr. Stefan Kraus of Kolumba, the Museum of the Archdiocese of Cologne, says:

'... in the case of Thek, it is hard to ignore the fact that he engaged throughout his life with the central questions of Christianity. The discovery of a written description of one of his Fishmen as ‘Birth and Death Fishman in Excelsis – Great Flesh Explosion’ thus confirmed our view of this state of uncertainty between life and death ...

[Art is Liturgy] is quoted from a comment made by Thek in conversation with Harald Szeemann, when he named the late-medieval theologian Meister Eckhart and the Holy Scripture among his key sources. The exhibition explores this claim, as well as the possibility of its opposite – the extent to which liturgy itself might be art. Liturgy gives a communicable form to belief, allows it to be experienced via the senses, becoming transformed into a reality of its own. This claim to a distinct reality beyond the factual, the rational or even the illustrative is something shared by art and religion.'


Communards - Never Can Say Goodbye.

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