We meet American artist Tabboo! (Stephen Tashjian, b. 1959, Leicester, Massachusetts) at his apartment in the East Village.

We discuss his love of painting, his collection of glitter, early friendships via Boston including Nan Goldin and Jack Pierson. We explore his 1980s move to NY inspired by Klaus Nomi and New Wave, which led to his own regular performances at the legendary Pyramid Club appearing next to other drag legends like Rupaul and Lady Bunny. Notably, Tabboo! also contributed graphic design for album covers such as Deee-Lite's World Clique. The curly lettering on the album cover became an iconic image for the band and the rave culture of the early 1990s.

Tabboo! is a multidisciplinary artist and painter based in New York City. He renders his subjects in a direct, intuitive style, suspending figurative elements against dreamlike colorfields. Tabboo! often draws subjects from his surroundings, depicting expressive cityscapes, portraits of friends, or imaginative still lifes inspired by the plants in his apartment. He also paints large, panoramic works and site-specific murals. These immersive settings recall the painted backdrops he made for performances in the 1980s and 1990s.

While performing regularly himself, Tabboo! also designed numerous event fliers, posters, and album covers featuring his signature curvilinear text, which still appears in his work. Roberta Smith described Tabboo!’s paintings as “delicious, fresh and transparent, revealing every touch of color, every pour and drip.” His work is held in the collections of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Tabboo!’s work is on view in the exhibition The Myth of Normal: A Celebration of Authentic Expression at the MassArt Art Museum, Boston, though May 19, 2024.

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