Like the every man (and every woman) subject so characteristic in his artworks, Mark Kostabi is himself an intriguing, enigmatic presence at once nowhere and everywhere in his art. Kostabi, a prodigious artist, composer and musician, was born in Los Angeles in 1960. He studied art at Cal State Fullerton and while still in school he met art dealer Molly Barnes, who sold his work to Hollywood luminaries such as Ray Stark, Doug Cramer, and Norman Lear. His work also graced the cover of the Guns “N” Roses album “Use Your Illusion”.
In his book “The World of Kostabi World”, Gary Indiana notes that Kostabi’s upbringing in Whitter, California (where one might imagine a James M. Cain novel unfold behind the stucco walls of a perfectly ordinary house) and his ethnic Estonian roots add a peculiar touch to his biography, and ultimately his creative process.
One of the first Kostabi collectors of note was Billy Wilder – who directed Double Indemnity from the novel by James M. Cain. Billy Wilder knew the dark side and the antic flip side of every subject he put his hand to, and apparently recognized that Kostabi was a one of kind artist.
Gary Indiana speaks of a film noir atmosphere in many of Kostabi’s paintings, and he calls it: “Kostabi Color”. The unmistakable look of his interiors, people, streets, animals, and an array of other objects, is a mixture of supersaturated tints and shadow-laden monochromes that do suggest a claustral, sinister side of social relations.
In the 1980’s Mark Kostabi moved to New York and became part of the East Village Art scene. While many artists did anything they could to draw attention to themselves, Kostabi’s uninhibited tactical self promotion was ahead of its time. No one knew how long the East Village scene would last or what to expect in terms of reward, however Kostabi’s ambitious systematic approach to art and creativity ensured that his undeniable talent remained relevant throughout the years.
Following Andy Warhol’s Factory concept, Mark Kostabi launched Kostabi World, and he flagrantly depicted the money-making machinery of the art world turning the entire concept into a polemic that took its own art form.
Years later, his promotional tactics, and approach to mass marketing art, seems to still not fully be understood. His creative and productive process-so widely applied in today’s art scene is still met with skepticism, although that has not prevented Kostabi’s art from thriving years after the East Village Art scene.
Today Mark Kostabi divides his time between Italy and New York, and his work is featured in museums across the world. His creativity shows no signs of slowing down, and his work is as intriguing and representative as always.
2019 has been as creative a Kostabi year as any. This Fall two of his works were chosen to be featured at the prestigious Frederic. R. Weisman Art Museum, Pepperdine University, as part of the “It’s All Black and White” exhibition on view from August 27th – December 8th, 2019.
At the same time, Mark Kostabi’s work is featured at Castellani Museum at Niagara University.
As a testament to his international appeal and lasting mark in the art world, a permanent public sculpture by Mark Kostabi was recently installed in Terni, Italy alongside historically significant architecture.
If you are unable to view these exhibitions and installations in person; this November Mark Kostabi’s work, will be on exhibit at Martin Lawrence Galleries Chicago and Martin Lawrence Galleries San Francisco with an opportunity to meet the artist in person. In 2020, his work will be on exhibit at our Martin Lawrence Galleries Soho, where he will host an opening reception on the evening of January 24th.
As Mark Kostabi continues his journey into the art world, It is crystal clear we have not seen it all from the artist that gives a unique faceless view to our world and society.