Tabboo! 1982–1988
In conjunction with the exhibition at Gordon Robichaux
December 6, 2020–January 10, 2021

Karma Bookstore
136 East 3rd Street

Gordon Robichaux is pleased to present Tabboo! 1982–1988, an exhibition of paintings from Tabboo!’s (Stephen Tashjian) first years in New York, many of which have not been exhibited in over thirty years. In conjunction with the exhibition and as part of Gordon Robichaux’s ongoing collaboration with Karma gallery, Karma Bookstore will present a concurrent exhibition of Tabboo!’s early artwork and ephemera, and will publish a monograph dedicated to this seminal period of his work.

In 1982, after graduating from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, Stephen Tashjian moved to New York City with his friend and collaborator Pat Hearn. During their time in Boston, Tashjian and Hearn developed a close group of peers—among them Mark Morrisroe and Jack Pierson—who would move to New York in the following years. During his first months in NYC, Tashjian lived with Hearn in a Soho loft, performed with her as the band Wild and Wonderful, and scavenged the streets for art materials. By 1983, Tabboo! had made a home and studio in an East Village apartment (where he continues to live and work), and Hearn had opened her namesake gallery. During his first decade in New York, Tashjian performed regularly at Club 57, Mudd Club, the World, the Mike Todd Room at the Palladium, and the Pyramid Club, most frequently as his celebrated drag persona Tabboo!, a name that he soon adopted for all of his artistic production.

In his early paintings, Tabboo! channeled the Neo-Expressionist zeitgeist of the time, materializing faces and still life subjects with aggressive colors, agitated brushstrokes, and dustings of glitter. A number of his early works on paper evidence his material dexterity: It was during this period that he began to water down his acrylic paints to create lush washes and stains of color, a technique he continues to employ to great effect in his work. From the beginning, he painted the subjects he knew best—friends, still life arrangements made with his collection of objects in his home studio, and himself. He mined a range of historical references including Greek key motifs, the artists and culture of the Weimar Republic, psychedelic patterns, calligraphic text, punk-collage strategies, and the performative personas of drag, theater, and nightlife, all of which he transformed into his own enduring signature style and vocabulary.

Tabboo! (Stephen Tashjian, born 1959 in Leicester, MA) has exhibited his work extensively including at Gordon Robichaux, Karma, Participant Inc, Matthew Marks, Kasmin Gallery, New Museum, New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, Shoot the Lobster, Andrew Edlin Gallery, Rental Gallery, White Columns, Howl! Happening, ABC No Rio, Artists Space, Tom Cugliani, Tricia Collins, Wooster Gardens, Rupert Goldsworthy, and LIMBO in New York; Parker Gallery, Artist Curated Projects, and GAVLAK in Los Angeles; Herald St and White Cube in London; the Cincinnati Art Museum; ICA Boston; Colette in Paris; and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

In 2017, a group of his works was featured in Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983, an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York where his work is included in the permanent collection. His work is also held in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Tabboo! has performed extensively, created murals for public projects, designed flyers, album covers, and ephemera (Wigstock, Deee-Lite, Book of Love, Rufus Wainwright, Printed Matter, A1 Records Shop, Studio Voltaire), illustrations for major publications (Vogue Paris; Vogue Italia; M, le magazine du Monde; Artforum; Interview; Paper; Penguin Paperbacks’ The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp), flyers and posters for underground venues (Club 57, the Pyramid Club) and collaborated with fashion designers (Marc Jacobs, Supreme, Fiorucci, Willi Wear). He’s been a muse to artists and photographers including Nan Goldin, Ai Weiwei, Steven Klein, and Steven Meisel. In 2016, his celebrated collaboration with Marc Jacobs for the brand’s Fall collection was profiled in Harper’s Bazaar and Le Monde. Tabboo!’s work has been reviewed in numerous publications including Artforum, The New Yorker, The New York Times, New York Magazine, Cultured Magazine, VICE, Candy Magazine, Miami Herald, and Financial Times.

Three books dedicated to his art have been published: Tabboo! The Art of Stephen Tashjian (Damiani, 2013), Paintings by Tabboo! (Howl! Archive Publishing Editions, 2016), and Pearl: Poems by Vincent Katz, Paintings by Tabboo! (powerHouse Books, 1998). In January 2021, Karma and Gordon Robichaux will publish a monograph: Tabboo! 1982–1988 with a text by Jarrett Earnest.