In his playfulness and subversiveness, Stephen Tashjian is typified by Tabboo!, his drag persona: her name denotes something forbidden, but was whimsically arrived at by combining the first portion of his last name with his aunt's nickname, "Boo." Along with a coinciding show at Karma, this exhibition spans the artist's work from the 1980s, the period during which he graduated from college, became bandmate and roommate to Pat Hearn and close friends and collaborators with a number of prominent artists, and leased an East Village home and studio in which he continues to live.
These early works trace the beginning of his ascendancy as a legendary drag performer, puppeteer, actor, musician, muse, and painter. They combine intimate subjects with historical references, such as the wave-like Greek-key motif that weaves through a number of the canvases in this show, showcasing Tabboo!'s delight in tradition—as well as drag's subversive nature. Classical Beauty (2020) is ebulliently garish: A woman with two overly full rows of chiclet teeth, green skin, and blue hair sits before a bright pink-and-blue background. Portrait of Clark Render from the Green Dimension (1986) [pictured] is, as its title suggests, a work saturated in colo —the subject's neon green pants match his eyebrows and glitter figures prominently. But easy strokes render Render's lupine expression as well as his pose, both aloof and relaxed: a portrait by and of people who know each other intimately.
Tabboo!, Portrait of Clark Render from the Green Dimension, 1986. Acrylic and glitter on canvas, 58 x 38 inches.