Artist Scott Covert might be the world’s most eccentric autograph hunter. He visits the graves of the famous and infamous, bringing massive canvases with him and rubbing into them the names, dates and other details from the headstones. He then twins the layered rubbings with abstract expressionist coloring. We considered the paintings a celebration of notable (and occasionally tragic) figures’ lives and an expression of the subtle relationship between the passage of time, geography and the paintwork. Or so we thought.
Mr. Covert emerged at Edelman Arts last Wednesday for the launch party for his solo show, titled ”The Dead Supreme,” and we explained to him how we appreciated his Rat Pack piece (seen at left) and admired how the gold background represented everything that these men were and stood for: showbiz.
“Yes, I like working with glitter,” was his response.
On the artist-led tour of the gallery that followed, through a room packed with sharp navy suits juxtaposed with sleeveless pink denim shirts and Hawaiian shorts, there was no mention of any thought between the rubbings and the painting; Mr. Covert simply pointed out famous names and gave a geography lesson on dead celebrities. We asked what inspired the choice of color on his “Three of the Four Ramones With Five of the Six Three Stooges” piece (visible in our slideshow)?
“I love using pink in my work,” he replied.
His representatives were a little more descriptive about the work.
“Scott represents the core heart of New York,” co-curator Michelle Edelman told us. “The city is graffiti obsessed. These pieces represent something different: taking a mark rather than leaving one. You learn a lot about these personalities, about what kind of ego these people had.”
Mr. Covert himself stated, “These pieces are all about the journey.” We were also wrong to assume he simply meant the travelling required to obtain each rubbing, the sneaking about graveyards with canvas and paint.
“I’m old and I survived. I lived through AIDS, I never got that,” he told us.
At this point in the evening, Ms. Edelman sounded positively surprised that The Observer had lasted as long as we had. “Oh, you’re still here?”
Despite the pleasant reception, we couldn’t help but feel that Scott Covert rubbed us the wrong way, something we hadn’t expected to happen until long after we had died.