"As Popcorn from The Laziest Girl in Town," 1982.
Artist Stephen Tashjian -- best known by his drag stage name Tabboo! -- has been subverting the norms of good taste for so long now, it seems almost impossible to describe him to the uninitiated. Thankfully, Tashjian's work, a secret treasure from the golden age of '80s New York subculture, will be available to generations of new, young admirers via the book Tabboo! The Art of Stephen Tashjian, a flamboyant account of his life and art, out this month.
Prolific in a way that borders on compulsivity, Tashjian was not only one of the most imaginative figures in the early-'80s East Village art scene: he also illustrated our world, lending his hand to the cover art of era-defining records by the likes of Deee-Lite and Book of Love and producing a seemingly infinite array of flyers and ads for the most celebrated nightclubs of the day, like the Pyramid Club and Mudd Club. He was just as likely to be found inside those clubs, designing their interiors or commanding the stage as Tabboo! Of all that, Tashjian simply says, "I worked in nightclubs when nightlife actually mattered."
A flyer for the Pyramid club, 1987 by Stephen Tashjian from Tabboo! The Art of Stephen Tashjian.
Forced to think back on his accomplishments while putting the 224-page book together, Tashjian says, "I never did any of it for fame or money. Perhaps that's why I have neither." Much like his art, however, the book reflects an untold creative wealth. Tabboo! is a poignant autobiography chronicling the evolution of a soul that would never grow up, as well as a peculiar portrait of beauty from a figure who has been muse to many, including Steven Klein, Nan Goldin, Ai Weiwei and Jack Pierson (who wrote an essay for the book). But most of all, the book is a remarkable collection of paintings from an artist whose visionary brut stands as some of the finest work produced in the East Village of yore.
Tabboo! The Art of Stephen Tashjian is out April 30th via Damiani