Photos: Paul Thek and His Merry Band of Fifties Gay Artists

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Starting tomorrow, the artist who became famous in the sixties for a series known as "meat pieces" (the gag-inducing yet hypnotizing slabs of oozing fleshlike works housed in plexiglass cases) will be honored at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in an exhibition called "Paul Thek and His Circle in the 1950s." Rather than presenting art from Thek's more famous years, the museum chose to delve back into the years just prior to his national fame, starting in 1954. The exhibition focuses on the young, openly gay artist in his early twenties, which includes photographs of him hanging out with his close crop of friends and fellow soon-to-be iconic gay artists, some of whom turned into his lovers, and all of whom inspired his future works. Fittingly, the show is curated by one of Thek's lifelong friends and former lovers, set designer Peter Harvey, and gay art historian Jonathan David Katz. Click through the slideshow to see sketches by the artist of his lover asleep in the nude, or photographs of Thek himself, doing everything from looking nonchalant in sunglasses and itty-bitty swim trunks, to sitting on a lawn with a wreath of flowers perched atop his head, or our personal favorite: Paul Thek riding a zebra in the nude. The exhibit will run until July 7.

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