Baird Jones’s scrawled-upon and rubber-stamped photograph of artist Mark Kostabi at a “Kosthappening” is an unusual relic of the glory days of the East Village in the mid-1980s. Gallery 98 has lent this standout image to the exhibition “The Downtown Decade: NYC 1975-1985,” open for viewing through October 10th at Glenn Horowitz RARE, 17 W. 54th Street, NYC.
One would be hard pressed to find two personalities who better personified the downtown art scene in the 1980s. Mark Kostabi was the East Village’s most famous artist, an ubiquitous presence in nightclubs and storefront galleries. Always good for a quote, Kostabi was known for glib aphorisms like the ones rubber-stamped on this photograph. Baird Jones (1955-2008) was a party promoter, curator, gossip columnist, and photographer. His death in in 2008 received wide media coverage. Today, his party invitations are coveted collectibles.
In 1985, Jones took on the role of paparazzo, playfully stalking Kostabi as he cavorted with the famous and not–so-famous at openings and parties. These photographs were exhibited at a series of “Kosthappenings” held at galleries in the East Village and South Bronx. Here gallery-goers could interact (and get photographed) with the real Kostabi as they viewed Jones’s pictures of him. These brash works are mini-masterpieces from a short-lived, incestuous Mannerist period when photography, performance, self-promotion, and having fun were all part of an inextricable, youthful mish-mash of art and life.