Join us for a tour of our current exhibition, Scott Covert, C'est la vie, led by Exhibitions Curator Nicola Wright.
C'est la vie is a major new exhibition of works by Scott Covert (b. New Jersey, 1954), the artist’s first solo presentation outside of the US.
For nearly forty years, Covert’s practice has largely evolved around his long-standing series of Monument paintings: carefully rendered rubbings of gravestones in chalk, oil stick or charcoal on canvas and paper. In this decades–long project, the artist has accumulated a vast collection of works. Always producing the rubbings on site, Covert has ceaselessly undertaken hundreds of journeys across the US and internationally to seek out specific subjects, who have included friends, public figures, artists, poets, film stars and underground performers.
Following a career as an actor, he returned to art making and in 1985 produced the first of these works, The Dead Supreme, in homage to Florence Ballard (1943- 76), a founding member of the Supremes. He later added Billie Holiday’s epitaph, posthumously uniting the two legendary stars on one canvas.
Since these early experiments, Covert has continued to commemorate figures including Frank Sinatra and Noël Coward in a solitary arrangement, and elsewhere has worked thematically. His series capturing ‘tragic blondes’ features Marilyn Monroe, Nancy Spungen and Warhol superstars Candy Darling and Edie Sedgwick.
Covert often works on multiple canvases simultaneously, and many have been ongoing for years, gaining new names and meaning throughout his travels. His subjects are sometimes assembled in intuitive collections, but can also be antagonistic in their pairings; Andrew Andrew (n.d), juxtaposes conservative publisher Andrew Breitbart with Gianni Versace’s murderer, Andrew Cunanan.
Covert has described how ‘The gravestone functions like the plate for a printing press. The pieces are about being there, making the visit’. His paintings knowingly engage with the history of 20th Century American abstraction: surfaces covered with layered rubbings become visual colour-fields or are painstakingly filled with undulating checked patterns. Conversely, his explorations of celebrity, legacy and infamy have a Warholian quality. However, rather than Pop’s removed reproduction of cultural icons, Covert’s dynamic transcriptions of gravestones evidence the artist’s hand and the immediacy of his mark marking is in direct relation to the object and site.
Covert’s memento mori are representations of his subjects’ lifetimes – but also the artist’s own pilgrimages to find them.
C'est la vie runs until Sunday 23 April 2023.