Scott Covert is an artist on a transcendent, death-defying, quest. For the last 25 years, his life has been a never-ending, headlong pursuit of the beautiful and damned, beauties and the beasts, the good, the bad and the ugly, the powerful and glorious, the naked and the dead.
On his creative pilgrimage he has travelled all over the United States and Europe, paying visits to a luminous pantheon of cultural icons: movie stars, explorers, politicians, artists, heroes, villains, architects, murderers, murder victims, singers, athletes, novelists, inventors, rock stars, poets. Scott's odyssey gains in grandeur and poignancy once you know that his hosts were dead and residing in their graves when the artist came to call.
It is unlikely anyone has visited as many cemeteries as Scott: certainly no one has returned with such treasures from the necropolis. Cemeteries serve as adjunct studios for the painter who arrives with a sheaf of canvases, which the dead help bring to life-and vice-versa.
Once in his outdoor studio, the artist sets to work, prepping the fabric, placing it over the gravestones, and, using an oil or wax crayon, impulsively adorning the canvas with his subjects' engraved in memoria. In piquant counterpoint to the 80s graffiti art practiced by his friends Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, the artist does not leave a mark behind, but rather leaves with it.
Each brushstroke is a life, as Scott says. At times, one subject's inscription will be repeated on a single canvas; other times, an inscription will be placed on a canvas in an impulsive collage of diverse personalities' names, in varied colors and textures, producing a palimpsest for the viewer to explore and decipher.
Scott's aesthetic choices convey the impulsive immediacy, directness and impact of Abstract Expressionism. As the gallerist Patrick Fox observes, Scott is the first artist to conjoin the prima materia of Pop Art-celebrity, notoriety and glamour-with the subterranean, unconscious rumblings of Abstract Expressionism. As the singer Patti Smith reminds us, "We are all Pollock's children." And we might add, Andy's.
Through his singular process and uncanny work, Scott engages in a kind of ontological alchemy. The grave no longer marks the end, but the beginning of a new journey for his starry subjects. In the enchanted realm of Scott's paintings, the dead come to glorious life, galvanized into celestial dancing partners with others from the necropolitan galaxy-Dancing with the Stars, you might say.
Scott's first grave rubbing was of Florence Ballard (1943-1976), one of the original Supremes of Motown legend, who received Scott at her resting place at Detroit Memorial Park Cemetery in Warren, Michigan. Ever since, Scott has identified his school as "The Dead Supreme."
When Cookie Mueller, the art critic, muse and downtown doyenne, saw the resulting artwork, she convinced Scott that he had found his métier. Rene Ricard, the art world avatar, gave Scott another piece of advice: "A painting should be a beautiful, entertaining thing to put on the wall."
"My work has nothing to do with death," Scott is quick to remind us. "It's not morbid: it's a celebration of life." He adds, "I'm not about looking back, or even looking forward. I don't have time for that. I'm all about right now." And right now just happens to be the very moment we encounter Scott's paintings.
2006 Plan B Gallery, The Dead Supreme, Forest Park, Il
2005 Lakeside Gallery, The Dead Supreme, Lakeside, MI
2000 Randall/Ericson Gallery, Luminaries in Stone, Palm Springs, CA
1999 Mark Moore Gallery, New Paintings, Santa Monica, CA
1999 Finesilver Gallery, New Work, San Antonio, TX
1992 Lee Arthur Studio, Tombstone Travels, New York, NY
1990 Europe Revisited, Curated by Caroline Spitzer, Paris, France
1990 Lee Arthur Studio, New York, NY
1990 Makeshift Gallery, Provincetown, MA
1989 Makeshift Gallery, Provincetown, MA
1989 XX Century Gallery, New York, NY
1989 Barbara Braathen Gallery, Tombstones, New York, NY
1984 Ricky Clifton Gallery, Modern Martyrs, New York, NY
2005 Glen Horowitz Gallery, Rock Stars, East Hampton, NY
2005 Cartelle Gallery, Big Holy, Marina Del Rey, CA
2000 Mark Moore Gallery, Paint, American Style, Santa Monica, CA
1999Skidmore Gallery, Big, Malibu, CA
1998 Mark Moore Gallery, Hollywood Satan, Santa Monica, CA
1993 Barbara Braathen, Urban Analysis, New York, NY
1993 Marcel Sitcoske, Masks for Aids, New Yor, NY
1992 Lee Arthur Studio, Transformations, New York, NY
1989 56 Bleeker Street, New York, NY
1984 The Fun Gallery, New York, NY
1984 Patrick Fox Gallery, New York, NY
1979 Club 57, Found Objects, New York, NY (Group Exhibition curated by Keith Haring)
Selected PressScott Covert given spread in OMEN Magazines
OMEN Magazine No. 10
Covert Purposes: A Letter from New York
Proteus Mag Art + Design Blog
August 13, 2012
Top Five Shows: Aug 9-15, 2012
Time Out New York
August 8, 2013
Scott Covert covered by Art Daily
June 10, 2012
Scott Covert - More Than Just Rubbing Grave Stones
Art Talk Blog
February, 12 2006