An essay on the Italian period (1962-1976) of the American artist, never studied before although it has deeply influenced the imagination and the work of Paul Thek.
Paul Thek (1933-1988), one of the most distinctive American artists of the latter half of the twentieth century, always refused to be part of the artistic mainstream.
From 1962 to 1976, he traveled to Italy, for multiple extended stays. In Rome, he discovered ancient sculpture, the achievements of the Renaissance, the Baroque churches, but above all the contemporary artistic effervescence of the capital. In Sicily, with his friend the photographer Peter Hujar
, he was confronted with the question of death through reliquaries, religious processions or the extraordinary Capuchin catacombs. On the island of Ponza, he immersed himself in an ecstatic Mediterranean lifestyle, in osmosis with nature and the sea in particular.
All so many deeply felt experiences that shaped his artistic practice, from the famous Technological Reliquaries
, to innovative installations and his return to painting and drawing.
This essay sets out to analyze, for the first time, the deep influence of this Italian life on the imaginary and work of Paul Thek.
Valérie Da Costa is an art historian, art critic and curator. She holds the position of associate professor in contemporary art history (twentieth-twenty-first centuries) at the University of Strasbourg. Her research focuses on Italian art
of the second half of the twentieth century, on which she has published numerous articles and books, including Écrits de Lucio Fontana
(Les presses du réel, 2013).