Like everybody else, I spent most of 2020 in lockdown – in my case, confined to an apartment in New York City. It wasn’t so bad really because I’m a homebody, and I can see the Empire State Building from my living room window. I put this online show together with that view as a starting point, as represented in Tabboo!’s cityscape paintings. I came to New York in the early 1980’s to attend Parsons. The East Village seemed like the center of the world, and Tabboo! gave that world a visual and graphic identity, from his Pyramid Club flyers on lamp posts to backdrops for the Wigstock stage. His cityscape paintings have an emotional grit that reflect New York in good times and bad times – and let’s face it – 2020 was the worst of times.
Another thing I did last year besides looking out the window was fiddle around and putter and rearrange my stuff. Ricky Clifton was out there in his apartment in another part of the city doing the same thing but in a more poetic way and photographing it and posting it on Instagram. His nature mortes, composed mostly of the things that he used to sustain himself – there are sardine cans, fruit, gin bottles – depict for me the isolation of the pandemic and how that isolation can turn to introspection which can turn to creation.
2020 has been all about death – 108 million worldwide COVID-19 deaths since January 2020. In Scott Covert’s paintings made from direct rubbings of tombstones, we see a name – names of famous people we know and esteem – a birth date, and a death date. Those three things conjure not only the highlights of these luminaries’ lives, achievements that we might be familiar with, but also all of the other smaller moments, the kind of things we all share in common – plain old life.
Kevin Stahl’s lead coated sculptures of flower arrangements make me think about the convention of sending flowers when words might be difficult. There are please forgive me flowers, get well soon flowers, I love you flowers, congratulations on the birth of your baby flowers – and in the case of Stahl’s sculptures, condolences for the death of a friend or loved one flowers. In this year of COVID-19, when words are failing all around, Stahl’s frozen flowers memorialize our collective loss.