If you are a Village Voice reader of a certain age, the name Walter Gurbo might conjure some strange glimpses just beyond memory’s horizon. A native New Yorker and graduate of the High School of Art and Design and Pratt Institute, Gurbo’s often surreal, sometimes funny, always intriguing drawings illuminated various pages of the Voice—most notably, the back cover—for a dozen years, beginning in the late 1970s.
Amid the Bulletin Board ads desperately seeking Susan, thanking St. Jude, hawking Stripper-Grams, and other come-ons for downtown frisson, Gurbo’s visual conundrums would snag readers’ eyes, slowing things down in order to contemplate such tableaux as a hard-driving musician whose bow has sawed his violin in half (June 9, 1980) or the suicidal tendencies of moths attempting to strike up a book of matches (February 5, 1985).
Gurbo has continued making art beyond those four-color fever dreams back then, and, like many of us, he used the Covid-19 chapter to dig into new realms. As he says, the “2020-21 Lockdown inspired my cardboard/plywood relief adventure. It seems an appropriate reaction to these times. Is flat painting dead? I have found liberation in layers.” ❖