Thek began the Meat Pieces after a trip to the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Italy, in 1963.
“It delighted me that bodies could be used to decorate a room like flowers,” he recalled. “We accept our thingness intellectually, but the emotional acceptance of it can be a joy.”
Meat pieces by Paul Thek, L-R: Untitled (Meat Piece with Flies), 1965. Collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Untitled, 1966. Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Paul Thek, Untitled, 1967. Museum Ludwig, Cologne
Throughout his life, Thek was driven by the often conflicting forces of his religion, art, and sexuality. In referencing the physical and spiritual decay of flesh, the Catholic tradition of relics, and an almost sci-fi understanding of human preservation, Thek’s sculptures encompass the most material and sacred forms of the body.
Installation view with Untitled (Meat Piece with Chair) seen at right, in Paul Thek: Recent Work, Pace Gallery, New York, 1966
Installation view with Untitled (Meat Piece with Chair) seen at center, in Paul Thek: Diver, A Retrospective, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2010. Photo by Sheldan C. Collins
Installation view with Untitled (Meat Piece with Chair) seen at right, in Paul Thek: The Wonderful World that Almost Was, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, 1995. Photo by Bob Goedewaagen. Courtesy Kunstinstituut Melly