Tabboo! Sally Bowles, 1982. Acrylic on found advertising paper. 35 x 47.5 inches

Tabboo! Snowstorm Out My Window (Bigger Flakes), 2017. Acrylic on linen. 24 x 36 inches

Tabboo! Self-portrait in Drag, 1982. Acrylic on advertising paper board. 27 x 20.5 inches

World of Tabboo! Early and Recent Work

September 24 – November 19, 2017

A legendary underground drag performer, actor, muse and raconteur, Tabboo! performed regularly in the East Village underground scene and worked in close dialogue with his peers, including Jack Pierson, Mark Morrisroe, Nan Goldin, David Armstrong and Pat Hearn. Tabboo!’s design for Deee-Lite’s World Clique album is an iconic image of early 1990s music, and he is also widely recognized for his drawn and collaged ads for the Pyramid Club. Since he was a child, however, the foundations of his art have always been painting and puppetry.

The larger portion of the exhibition will be devoted to new work: still lifes and cityscapes painted in acrylic on unprimed linen. Using puppets, houseplants and the expansive view out his living room window as protagonists, Tabboo! creates a universal theater within his modest East Village apartment. A kind of duel between a love for tradition and drag’s mischievous undermining of convention can be discerned in all his work, with elements reminiscent of paintings by classic figurative artists including Emil Nolde, Van Dongen and Alice Neel. The opulence and simplicity of unprimed linen become a backdrop for an almost Japanese exercise in concentration and improvisation, as brushstrokes are meditatively and courageously applied to form images that cannot be corrected or changed. Layered spaces are built up, often starting with an open wash of color that functions as light and sky. Like actors, motionless living plants and puppets are arranged and rearranged to interact with one another, forming dramatic tableaux that can be tender and satirical, or poignant and uproarious.

The gallery’s smaller room will contain a selection of works created in the early eighties when Tabboo! first arrived in New York and moved into a Soho apartment with Pat Hearn. Painting on materials he found in the street, Tabboo! channeled the neoexpressionist zeitgeist of the time, materializing faces with aggressive colors and agitated brushstrokes. A large self-portrait as Sally Bowles will be accompanied by two additional self-portraits and a drawing of Keith Haring created at the Pyramid Club. A frieze painted directly on the gallery walls above the works will turn the space into a theater while re-creating the ambiance of his East Village home.

                                                                                                                                                                —Elisabeth Kley

Tabboo! (Stephen Tashjian, Born 1959 in Leicester, MA) has exhibited his work extensively including at Howl! Happening, Participant Inc, Matthew Marks, Paul Kasmin Gallery, the New Museum, New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, Shoot the Lobster, Andrew Edlin Gallery, White Columns, ABC No Rio, Artists Space, Tom Cugliani, Tricia Collins, Wooster Gardens, Rupert Goldsworthy and LIMBO in New York; GAVLAK in Los Angeles; the Cincinnati Art Museum; NADA Miami; ICA Boston; White Cube in London; Colette in Paris and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. In October 2017, a group of his works will be featured in Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983, an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York where his work is included in the permanent collection.

Tabboo! has performed extensively, created murals for public projects, designed flyers and album covers (Deee-Lite, Book of Love, Rufus Wainwright), illustrations for major publications (French Vogue, Italian Vogue, M, le magazine du Monde, Interview, Paper, Penguin Paperbacks’ The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp), flyers and posters for underground venues (Club 57, the Pyramid Club) and collaborated with fashion designers (Fiorucci, Willi Wear, Marc Jacobs). He’s been a muse to artists and photographers including Nan Goldin, Ai Weiwei, Steven Klein, Steven Meisel and Ryan McGinley. In 2016, his celebrated collaboration with Marc Jacobs for Jacob’s Fall collection was profiled in Harper’s Bazaar and Le Monde.

Three books dedicated to Tabboo!’s work have been published: Pearl: Poems by Vincent Katz, Paintings by Tabboo! (powerhouse Books, 1998), Tabboo! The Art of Stephen Tashjian (Damiani, 2013) and Paintings by Tabboo! (Howl! Archive Publishing Editions, 2016).

Tabboo! Chinese Puppets, 2017. Acrylic on linen. 42 x 32 inches

Tabboo! Frieze, 2017. Site-specific, acrylic paint

Tabboo! Chrysler Building, 2017. Acrylic on linen. 42 x 32 inches

Tabboo! Cactus and Palm, 2016. Acrylic on linen. 38 x 42 inches

Tabboo! Purple Painting, 2017. Acrylic on linen. 24 x 36 inches

Tabboo! Puppet Show, 2017. Acrylic on linen. 32 x 42 inches

Tabboo! Frieze, 2017. Site-specific, acrylic paint

Tabboo! Frieze, 2017. Site-specific, acrylic paint

Tabboo! Frieze, 2017. Site-specific, acrylic paint

Tabboo! Orange Tulips on Black, 2017. Acrylic on linen. 34 x 42 inches

Tabboo! Daffodils in Black Vase, 2017. Acrylic on linen. 36 x 42 inches

Tabboo! Blue Self-Portrait, 1982. Acrylic on advertising paper board. 27 x 20.25 inches

Tabboo! Still Life, 2017. Acrylic on linen. 42 x 32 inches

Tabboo! Napoleon and George Washington, 2017. Acrylic on linen. 24 x 36 inches

Tabboo! Black-Eyed Susans, 2017. Acrylic on linen. 32 x 42 inches

Tabboo! Keith Harring, 1983. Sharpie and house paint on cardboard. 27 x 18 inches.