Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Paul Thek’s Studio 1967

Peter Hujar - Shelf With Hand - 1967 / 2010.

In 1967, Peter Hujar photographed his friend Paul Thek’s East 3rd Street studio in 1967. The Brooklyn artist Thek was a sculptor, painter, and one of the first artists to create environments or installations. As he frequently used 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.”

The images Peter Hujar took of the studio explore Thek's ephemera, process, and persona. Originally taken for potential use in association with Thek’s 1967 solo exhibition at Eleanor Ward’s Stable Gallery in New York, many images in this series document the making of his infamous sculpture The Tomb/Death of a Hippie, a life-sized effigy of the artist laid to rest in a pink ziggurat. A full-size cast of his body lies entombed dressed in a suit jacket and jeans, painted a pale pink, and adorned with jewelry made of human hair and gold. This sculpture is now considered to be the masterwork of his 1960s sculpture. The Tomb was destroyed after languishing in storage, with Thek reportedly having refused delivery of the piece in 1981. Thek had grown tired of the work, “I really don’t want to have to do that piece AGAIN! Oh God no! Not THAT one. Imagine having to bury yourself over and over.” Both Thek and Hujar died of AIDS related illnesses in the late 1980s.

Peter Hujar -  Thek’s studio - 1967.
Peter Hujar's images are on view at Maureen Paley in London from September 7 – October 2, 2011. Photographs from this studio session were uncovered during the research for Paul Thek: Diver, a retrospective which opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in October 2010, toured to the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh and is now on view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles until September 4, 2011.

Peter Hujar - Thek Working with Bicycle Wheel Above 1 - 1967.
All images are© 1987 The Peter Hujar Archive LLC;
courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

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