SCOTT COVERT: OF THE UNITED STATES
OCTOBER 27–DECEMBER 5 2020
F is pleased to announce Of The United States, a presentation of 67 works on paper by New York-based artist Scott Covert. The exhibition features a selection from his ongoing series, the Lifetime Drawings (1986-), framed by a selection of the 9-14’s (2001-), drawings of the American flag that Covert started days after September 11, 2001. Of The United States opens October 27 and will be on view through December 5, 2020, by appointment.
For thirty-five years Covert has crisscrossed the United States by car, visiting (and revisiting) US cemeteries and graveyards to produce rubbings of markers and headstones in a process that poet and critic Rene Ricard once described as “bringing the printing press to the cemetery.” Although frottage is by its nature indexical, Covert’s hand is evident, a distinctive frenetic scribble. There are hundreds of works in the Lifetime Drawings (some works-in-progress were started over twenty years ago), but the project as a whole is not an attempt to produce a comprehensive archive, nor is his selection of subjects arbitrary. Covert seeks out specific gravestones, collecting rubbings of friends and people of interest. Among these are US Presidents, golden age movie stars, performers, musicians, artists and poets; revolutionaries, visionaries, criminals and victims of crimes. The 9-14’s series (which also includes hundreds of drawings) focuses on a recurring flag motif in an iconoclastic pursuit that, through the unique completion of each work, highlights the difference and repetition of Covert’s oeuvre.
Many of the Lifetime Drawings depict a single, often iconic name—Whitney Houston, Marilyn Monroe, Jack Kirby, Billie Holiday, Oswald, or Rodney King. Others feature the names of forgotten or little known historical figures, whose achievements or professions are often communicated in their varied epitaphs: ”Alexandra Danilova 1903-1997 Ballerina” or “Thomas E Burnett Jr. Cadet US Air Force May 29 1963 Sep 11 2001 Citizen Soldier Flight 93.” A favorite is the two-panel “Dr. John Stith Pemberton Born Knoxville Crawford County Georgia July 8 1831 Died in Atlanta Georgia August 16 1888 Originator of Coca-Cola.” In contrast, the stark and simple “Condé Nast 1873-1942” delivers an epiphany of a eulogy: a reminder that this now eponymous publishing empire was once simply a man, whose time has come and gone.
In other Lifetime Drawings, Covert splices together names to make more complex portraits. These composite rubbings take multiple forms and to varying effects. In some, Covert pulls together subjects whose lives were intertwined (one work includes Eliot Ness and Al Capone on one piece of paper; another brings together the central cast of The Wizard of Oz; another all six of the actors who played the Three Stooges). Some works bring together subjects that are not associates but associative, like combining Allen Ginsburg with the relatively unknown Jewish comedian Sophie Tucker; another such work mixes the most well known Three Stooges with members of the Rat Pack. Still another of Covert’s strategies plays with a simple linguistic name association, such as when Covert puts the anarchist and proto-feminist Emma Goldman with Ron Goldman (victim, along with Nicole Brown Simpson, of the infamous 1994 double murder) on one work by the rhyme of their shared (but unrelated) last name. And some works are visual color-fields, covered with the repetition of a single name, overlapping and intersecting in explosive expressions, such as the dense Bela Lugosi.
Back in the studio, Covert works into the rubbings on paper, filling the negative space with a network of inked squares. The majority are completed with black ink but he sometimes uses colored inks to play off the color of oil wax crayon used to make that particular rubbing (resulting in a red Sylvester James, or a blue Calvin Coolidge); some works use a combination of colored inks. The “squares” give these works an undeniable Op quality, and the visual force exerted by the squares unifies the frottaged name or flag with the ground. Covert’s completed works hold the eye, pulling one into the particularities and details of the work: the typography, the epitaph, and into the mythologies of the subjects themselves.
Scott Covert (b. 1954, Edison, New Jersey) is based in New York though he’s often on the road. A recent solo exhibition, The Dead Supreme, was on view simultaneously at Situations and Fierman Gallery, both New York (2017). Covert’s work has appeared in group exhibitions at South Etna, Montauk, NY, 56 Henry, New York, and Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978-1983 at The Museum of Modern Art. His work has been written about in Artforum, Ravelin Magazine, Arte Fuse, and the New Yorker. A profile and essay, written with Randy Kennedy, was featured in Hauser & Wirth’s Ursula Magazine, issue 5, Winter 2019. Covert’s book The Dead Supreme (2017), including an introduction by Alison Gingeras, was published by Heinzfeller Nileisist, New York, and is in its second printing.
List of works exhibited in Of The United States:
Bela Lugosi, 1999
Columbarium collage, 1999
Checkers Nixon, 2001
Edie Sedgwick / Edith Bouvier Beale / Andy Warhol, 2002
Mary Pickford, 2004
Thomas E Burnett Jr. Flight 93, 2004
William C. Frawley / Lucille Ball, 2004
Emma Goldman, 2006
Calvin Coolidge, 2007
The Central Cast of the Wizard of Oz, 2007
Eliot Ness / Al Capone, 2007
Grover Cleveland, 2008
Dred Scott, 2010
Dr. John Stith Pemberton, 2010
Jack Kirby, 2012
The Six Stooges, 2013
Ray Bradbury, 2013
Sylvester James, 2014
Alexandra Danilova, 2015
The Dead Supreme, 2016
Jimmie Rodgers, 2017
George Jones, 2019
Johnny Thunders / Divine / James Dean / Gary Cooper / Shelley Winters, 2019
Karen Gay Silkwood, 2019
Rodney King, 2019
Billie Holiday, 2020
Condé Nast, 2020
Rene Ricard (with flag), 2020
The 9-14’s, 2001-2020
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