Critics’ Picks

Scott Covert, Donna & Sylvester, n.d., acrylic and oilstick on canvas, 31 x 31".

Scott Covert, Donna & Sylvester, n.d., acrylic and oilstick on canvas, 31 x 31".

New York

Scott Covert

127 Henry Street
October 19–December 10, 2017

127 Henry St
October 19–December 10, 2017

Death pairs well with glamour: Think of Marlene Dietrich’s prostitute-spy character in Dishonored (1931), as she applies her lipstick before meeting a firing squad; Bette Davis as terminally ill socialite Judith Traherne in Dark Victory (1939); or Divine’s punk murderess Dawn Davenport in John Waters’s Female Trouble (1974), where the actor soliloquizes from an electric chair like a demented starlet accepting her first, and final, Oscar.

Scott Covert certainly understands the seductive appeal of merging Eros and Thanatos: For twenty-five years, the artist has traipsed the world, from Père Lachaise in Paris to LA’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park, making gravestone rubbings of the famous, fucked-up, and fabulous. Nineteen of the mostly acrylic-and-oilstick-on-canvas works, sometimes zhooshed up with glitter, are elegantly installed across two mausoleum-like exhibition spaces. Frank E. Campbell would be proud.

Of course, Marilyn Monroe makes a number of appearances in Covert’s show, quite memorably in Big Pink Marilyn #2 (all works cited, n.d.), where the doomed actress’s name and the years “1926–1962” become a pattern over fields of white and pale rose. The sensuously cool hues make one think of the skintight, nude-colored dress Monroe wore to serenade President Kennedy at his birthday celebration—an eroticized shroud, laden with rhinestones—only months before her suicide. Disco queens Summer and James share the marquee in Donna & Sylvester, while assholes Breitbart and Cunanan occupy the same circle of hell in Andrew Andrew. Covert loves his celebrities, à la Warhol, of whom the artist is a clear spiritual descendant (tender homages to Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis crop up in Covert’s pictures, too). Though the Pop painter frequently rendered his subjects as flattened, inanimate symbols, Covert does the opposite. He locates his dead in order give them one last breath—a moment that, we all hope, stretches out into forever.