Shout Magazine

Mark Kostabi on Jean Kallina (and himself, as usual)

Shout is getting better every issue. One of my biggest fears is losing my column and being replaced by some other great looking artist who hangs out with all the popular people. I mean my column is a total fraud. A hoax. I basically write about my friends, people who are nice to me or people who I expect will return the favor in some form down the line. Occasionally I’ll write about Chardin at the Met, or another historical giant with my best attempt at sounding intellectual, but only as a flimsy effort to shroud my megalomaniacal, self-serving agenda with a shred of credibility. I don’t deserve to be in Shout. I hardly ever read the other columns. Except I read Maggie Estep religiously since meeting her at the last Shout party and getting to know her very well. Now, she’s my favorite writer.

I’m so bad and yet they put my name on the January cover. Am I just lucky or what? Oh yeah, I’m supposed to write about another artist now:

I’m sitting in my favorite downtown café, Lotus Club (the most dependable Shout distribution point: as soon as they run out, more copies magically appear) writing feverishly on a brown paper bag, which later I’ll give to Heidi to type and e-mail to Afarin, barely in time for deadline.

I’m thinking about how I can create a smokescreen of legitimacy while I promote my friend, the great photographer Jean Kallina, who doesn’t deserve it because she stole all the paper clips from Kostabi World as well as the thing that attaches the video camera onto the tripod, causing me to use duct tape in a crunch and then the camera didn’t work anyway so she probably broke that too but my brother’s girlfriend Heidi loves Jean and swears she has a good heart and forced me to write about her for the February issue, even thought her show at Winston Wachter Gallery doesn’t open until February 21st.

Gosh, I’m running out of space on this brown paper bag. I’m worried that I won’t even get to say my pseudo-legit stuff like: In our historical artworld, brimming with shock tactics ranging from displaying sliced up dead animals to making art out of actual illegal drugs to getting your art dealer arrested by including real guns and ammo in your artworks, Jean Kallina stands alone (well, almost) as a master of subtle nuance, not unlike Chardin, who, with his delicate still lifes, defied the prevailing over-the-top Baroque tastes of his day. Kallina, using only natural light, shows calm, contemplative images of exquisitely appointed, unpeopled French chateaux or Shaker interiors. She meditates on the choices their inhabitants made: exactly where Balzac chose to place his quill and teapot on his elegant desk in Villa Sache. Whether photographing the opulence of a French Chateaux or the stark simplicity of a Shaker Village, Kallina consistently conjures a profound melancholy, a strongly sweet sense of longing amid her magical meditations of mysterious light. No wonder the great film director Julian Schnabel says she’s as good as Atget. No wonder she is collected by Woody Allen and the Whitney.

Having had one person shows at Leo Castelli and Pace McGill, now you can see this lovable paper clip thief’s work at the wonderful Winston Wachter Gallery at 39 East 78th Street through March 21st.

How’s that Jean?

February 2001