Paul Thek: Artist's Artist

Overview

Paul Thek occupied a place between high art and low art, between the epic and the everyday. During his brief life (1933-1988), he went against the grain of art world trends,humanizing the institutional spaces of art with the force of his humor, spirituality, and character.

Twenty years after Thek's death from AIDS, we can now recognize his influence on contemporary artists ranging from Vito Acconci and Bruce Nauman to Matthew Barney, Mike Kelley, and PaulMcCarthy, as well as Kai...

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Overview

Paul Thek occupied a place between high art and low art, between the epic and the everyday. During his brief life (1933-1988), he went against the grain of art world trends,humanizing the institutional spaces of art with the force of his humor, spirituality, and character.

Twenty years after Thek's death from AIDS, we can now recognize his influence on contemporary artists ranging from Vito Acconci and Bruce Nauman to Matthew Barney, Mike Kelley, and PaulMcCarthy, as well as Kai Althoff, Jonathan Meese, and Thomas Hirschhorn. This book brings together more than 300 of Thek's works—many of which are published here for the first time—to offer the most comprehensive display of his work yet seen. The book, which accompanies an exhibition at ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art presenting Thek's work in dialogue with contemporary art by young artists, includes painting, sculpture, drawing, and installation work, as well as photographs documenting the room-size environments into which Thek incorporated elements from art, literature,theater, and religion. These works chart Thek's journey from legendary outsider to foundational figure in contemporary art. In their antiheroic diversity, Thek's works embody the art revolution of the 1960s; indeed, Susan Sontag dedicated her classic Against Interpretation to him. Thek's treatment of the body in such works as "Technological Reliquaries," with their castings and replicas of human body parts, tissue, and bones, both evoke the aura of Christian relics and anticipate the work of Damien Hirst. The book, with more than 500 images (300 in color) and nineteen essays by art historians, curators, collectors, and artists, investigates Thek's work on its own terms, and as a starting point for understanding the work of the many younger artists Thek has influenced.Essays byJean-Christophe Ammann, Margrit Brehm, Bazon Brock, Suzanne Delehanty, HaraldFalckenberg, Marietta Franke, Stefan Germer, Kim Gordon, Roland Groenenboom, Axel Heil, GregorJansen, Mike Kelley, John Miller, Susanne Neubauer, Kenny Schachter, Harald Szeemann, AnnetteTietenberg, Peter Weibel, Ann Wilson

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Garnering praise and recognition in the 1960s with The Tomb, a haunting and provocative installation piece, American artist Paul Thek was, by his death in 1988, all but forgotten by an indifferent New York art establishment. Interest, however, in what many consider his groundbreaking sculptures, environments, and paintings never entirely disappeared, most notably in Europe, where he created much of his oeuvre. In this exhaustive survey, copublished with Germany's ZKM (Ctr. for Art & Media Technology) to accompany a 2008 retrospective there, cocurator Falkenberg and Weibel, director of the ZKM, attempt to position the artist as a seminal and influential force in late 20th-century art. VERDICT Nineteen essays by scholars, curators, collectors, and artists, along with a uniquely comprehensive visual record (more than 500 images, 300 in color) of Thek's works, provide ample documentation for artists and art historians to reassess the significance of an artist whose contrarian personality and disregard for art world economics rendered him an outsider for much of his life.—David Soltész, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262012546
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 5/29/2009
  • Pages: 550
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 2.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Harald Falckenberg is President of the Kunstrverein Hamburg and cocurator of ZKM's Paul Thek exhibit. He is one of Europe's most important collectors of contemporary art and a prolific essayist on art issues.

Peter Weibel is Chairman and CEO of the ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe. He coedited the recent ZKM/MIT Press volumes Molecular Aesthetics and The GlobalContemporary and the Rise of New Art Worlds.

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