Scott Covert


Project Studio

Coinciding with C'est la vie, the first-ever solo exhibition of Scott Covert (b. New Jersey, 1954) outside of the US, this presentation focuses on Covert’s 9-14’s (2001–), a series of drawings of the American flag the artist started in the days following September 11, 2001.

Covert’s practice has largely concentrated on compositions created from rubbings of gravestones in oil wax pastel. The artist often undertakes cross-country, sometimes decades-long road trips to seek out specific subjects, which he describes as ‘people of character’. His works chronicle a highly-personal index of well-known figures, from jazz musicians to Old Hollywood stars, civil rights activists, underground performers, and victims of crime. These records of celebrities, luminaries, the infamous and notorious are distinctly engaged with the great mythologies and tragedies of 20th Century America.

In the 9-14’s series Covert looks at a national icon, exploring the changing significance of this highly loaded American image. Covert’s flag, taken from an unnamed headstone, has been repeated within numerous drawings, the artist’s gestural variations and keen use of colour differentiating each work.

As a symbol, the waving flag is a powerfully nostalgic emblem of Americana. Covert subverts this reading, rendering the flag iconoclastic. Torn and fragmented by scrawled lines, the works suggest a depleted representation of the American Dream. Surrounded by the hallucinatory helter-skelter of checked patterns which characterise Covert’s drawings, the flags' allegiances seem closer to countercultural movements which rejected traditional values, than to patriotism.

9-14’s recalls the flag’s long history of artistic interpretation, from Jasper Johns’ painted abstractions, and the critically charged works of David Hammons, Dread Scott and Barbara Kruger, to Covert’s contemporaries, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Covert’s own series was prompted by a seismic turn-of-the-century event which has had complex and catastrophic consequences globally. Twenty years later, this still in-progress work speaks persuasively to ideas of political identity, cultural symbolism and power.

Work information:

Scott Covert
Oil wax pastel and pen on paper
Each 28 x 34 cm

  1. Based in New York (b. New Jersey, 1954), Covert was a collaborator with Off-Broadway theatre companies in the late ’70s and was a founding member of Playhouse 57 at the storied Club 57 in the East Village. Throughout this formative period, Covert was immersed in New York’s downtown nightlife and cultural milieu, where his friends and contemporaries included writer and actress Cookie Mueller, as well as poet and artist Rene Ricard, who both encouraged him to develop his artistic practice.

    In 2017 his solo exhibition, The Dead Supreme, was on view simultaneously at Situations and Fierman Gallery, both New York, and his work has been exhibited at Mark Moore Gallery, Santa Monica, CA; Makeshift Gallery, Provincetown, MA; Finesilver Gallery, San Antonio, TX; The Fun Gallery New York, NY; and in Found Objects, curated by Keith Haring at Club 57 New York, NY. His work featured prominently in Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978-1983 at MoMA, New York (2018), the first major exhibition to fully examine the scene-changing, interdisciplinary life of this seminal downtown New York alternative space. A major survey exhibition of his work is being presented at NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale until April 2023.

  2. Graham Pearson

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