Paul Thek. Hippopotamus Poison. 1965

Paul Thek Hippopotamus Poison 1965

  • MoMA, Floor 4, 420 The David Geffen Galleries

Hippopotamus Poison belongs to the series Technological Reliquaries, which Thek began in New York after a summer spent in Sicily. The work engages the Roman Catholic tradition of venerating saintly bodies that Thek had observed firsthand in the catacombs near Palermo and simultaneously offers a critique of the art of the time, Pop and Minimalism in particular. Within a visually seductive display case made from colored plexiglass sits what appears to be a slab of rotten meat, realistically rendered in wax. Inscribed on the vitrine is a paranoid quote that nods to a generation's underlying fears. "The world was falling apart, anyone could see it," Thek has explained. "I was a wreck, the block was a wreck, the city was a wreck; and I’d go to a gallery and there would be a lot of fancy people looking at a lot of stuff that didn’t say anything about anything to anyone."

Gallery label from From the Collection: 1960-69, March 26, 2016 - March 12, 2017.
Wax, stainless steel, and plexiglass
25 1/4 x 19 1/4 x 11 3/8" (64.2 x 48.9 x 28.9 cm)
Gift of Neil Jenney in honor of Ann Wilson
Object number
© 2020 Paul Thek
Painting and Sculpture

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