Shout Magazine

Mark Kostabi on John Baldessari, Michael Smith, and Sean Landers

At the moment, New York hosts three shows about art-careerism, featuring masters of commentary: John Baldessari at Marian Goodman, Sean Landers at Andrea Rosen, and Michael Smith at The New Museum of Contemporary Art. John Baldessari and I both got our careers started at the Molly Barnes Gallery in Los Angeles, California. As a teacher/guru at Cal Arts, Baldessari’s students included David Salle and Eric Fischl. Once John did a large black and white painting—a hand-lettered blow up of his resume, listing all of his “selected on person exhibitions.” The Molly Barnes Gallery topped the list. This was my favorite piece in a retrospective, which was held at the Whitney Museum a few years back. One day when I bumped into Baldessari, while doing the rounds of New York’s galleries, he told me he was “just looking for ideas to steal.” How cool is that? Amateurs imitate, professionals steal. Now he’s showing 8’x8′ paintings which represent an exciting departure from his previous work. The Tetrad series essentially depicts four devices of expression: moving pictures, Goya paintings, life objects, and words arranged by the Portuguese writer, Fernando Pessoa. “Tetrad” is also an anagram for “art det.” The idea thief professional, John Baldessari always pays back his art debts with lots of interest. I can’t wait to steal, I mean see, the show.

I recently met the quirky, deadpan, yet brilliant performance artist, Michael Smith, through my pal and former art school classmate, Fred Tomaselli, the rising art star. (Cal State Fullerton is responsible for producing Mark Kostabi, Fred Tomaselli, Patrick Nagel, and Kevin Costner.) Smith immediately included me in one of his art videos, thereby increasing Kostabi brand awareness more than a smidgen, so that’s why I’m going to see his show. Actually the show itself sounds great: with his collaborator Joshua White, he has recreated a Soho artist’s installation at The New Museum, which will undoubtedly make a witty and ironic commentary on the changing nature of New York’s Soho neighborhood.

I’ve never met Sean Landers but I buy his work. Josh Baer, of the Baer Faxt, recently applauded him as having the “best press release of the year.” Exploring thoughts about himself scaling the art world, he writes about his paintings in an extraordinarily exposed and convincingly “honest” manner. Have you noticed how I never write negative reviews? That’s because the world is divided into two kinds of people: winners and whiners.

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May 1999