“I was amused at the idea of meat under Plexiglas because I thought it made fun of the scene–where the name of the game seemed to be ‘how cool you can be’ and 'how refined.’ Nobody ever mentioned anything that seemed real. The world was falling apart, anyone could see it.”–Paul Thek, 1981
Paul Thek began a group of “meat” pieces in the mid-1960s. They evolved primarily from two negative impulses: a reaction against the clean, cool forms of Minimalist and Pop Art and, more importantly, his revulsion with U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Both impulses positioned the artist in opposition to the mainstream current, where he continued to stand until his death from AIDS in 1988.
The meat pieces suggest the fragile hold on life that is our shared human condition. Encased in a vitrine resembling both an incubator and a glass casket, Hippopotamus leads the viewer to contemplate the literal and spiritual mortification of the flesh that haunted Thek throughout his career as an artist.