Paul Thek, Meat Piece with Warhol Brillo Box, 1965


NARRATOR: In 1964, Andy Warhol exhibited his Brillo Boxes at the Stable Gallery in New York. The sculptures epitomized the style of Pop Art then in vogue, and offered a deadpan commentary on consumer culture. A few months later, Thek used one of Warhol’s boxes to make this sculpture, which was the then exhibited back at the Stable gallery. Inside Warhol’s deliberately banal box, Thek’s meat, with its tangled layers of tissue, bone, fat, and cherry-red blood, demands a visceral response. Artist Neil Jenney remembers the era’s artistic debates:

NEIL JENNEY: One of the critical terms that was used was the word “cool.” And Minimal was described as cool. And some Pop was described as cool. And it was pretty evident that Thek was trying to be as hot as possible with his imagery. He was doing the antithesis of cool.

NARRATOR: As you look around the gallery, you will notice that all of Thek’s meat pieces exploit this contrast between the inexpressive container and its highly emotional, “hot” content.

Paul Thek (1933–1988), Meat Piece with Warhol Brillo Box, 1965, from the series Technological Reliquaries. Wax, painted wood, and Plexiglas, 14 x 17 x 17 in. (35.6 x 43.2 x 43.2 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art; purchased with funds contributed by the Daniel W. Dietrich Foundation, 1990 © The Estate of George Paul Thek; courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York