Will the Real Sean Landers

January 4th, 2010
But is Sean Landers really a slacker?http://www.frieze.com/issue/review/sean_landers1  The daisy chain of slackers in the Richard Linklater film are determined to withdraw, to sit it out, to pass.  They are immobilized by the repetition and interchangeability of themselves and the world around them, where they find only morbid indifference.  Hence, the script swipes Joyce: “If he had smiled why would he have smiled? To reflect that each one who enters imagines himself to be the first to enter whereas he is always the last term of a preceding series even if the first term of a succeeding one, each imagining himself to be first, last, only and alone whereas he is neither first nor last nor only nor alone in a series originating in and repeated to infinity.
And when the world stirs from its frozen disregard, it responds with hostility.  In Slacker, men will traumatize women, women will fuck over men, war is inevitable, travel is dangerous.  Everyone else just trades in his soul for work in one assembly line or another, either for Ford Motors or for Subway sandwiches. “Every single commodity you produce is a piece of your own death.”
Sean Landers, on the other hand, gets in the ring and wants to participate.
“My original idea was to make conceptual art entertaining, sloppy, emotional, human and funny. Over the years I got so far out on this conceptual limb that I went around full circle until I was a traditional artist again. I tried to be ironic about it but eventually became sincere. Now I�m a happy victim of my own charade. I figure that it’s better to be a sucker who makes something than a wise guy who is too cautious to make anything at all.” http://www.absolutearts.com/artsnews/2004/08/30/32319.html
His world still hasn’t acknowledged its greatest living artist, him.  It is the bouncer not letting the rockstar into the hotspot nightclub.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdcsJakmUfY  Through his prolific output of paintings, drawings, writing, sculptures, and videos, his rants, diatribes, and ramblings have  produced a cacophonous echo chamber of fanatic opprobrium.  The razor-edged tool he uses to relay his chronic skepticism works more like a boomerang than a frisbee.  He has devalued the world around him – “us” – for neglecting his genius, but then defames that same genius with the fervor of a chimp grooming Pigpen.
He is both the Garry Kasparov of self-flagellation and the Wile E. Coyote of grandiose delusions.   In either mode, he is not a representative of the shambling black hole of slackerhood, which absorbs and then annihilates everything in its orbit.
He is the hyperactive narcissist who presaged status updates, tweeting about shopping.  This is the chief reason we should get a Sean Landers retrospective.  His text-based work is primary, but we can’t banish the oddball paintings that disappointed many of his fans in 1999, who hoped to see more writing.  Those absurd demi-Disneys are proof of the outlandish extremes required to distract Sean Landers from himself, just the way you can cover your ears and hum to drown out unsavory news from a friend.  The videos recently exhibited at Friedrich Petzel are like the solitary soliloquies we find on youtube, with overopinionated brats pontificating about trivia.
Our celeb-obsessed TV/magazine culture is another reason.  Celebutard heiresses and movie stars are safely nestled within layers of publicists and handlers paid to speak for and protect them.  We don’t get the real person, we just get the branded icon.  Sean Landers, however, takes us into the tumultuous interior of a culturemaker, resulting in TMI-related embarrassment and unease.
His text-based paintings elbow their way in between Mel Bochner, Ed Ruscha, Tracey Emin, and early John Baldessari, helping to escort in Cary Leibowitz and David Shrigley.  Maybe even Josh Smith.  Connect his thought-webs with the maps of Mark Lombardi and Beth Campbell.  His figurative paintings are Currin, Condo, and Weird Al.  A ten-minute jam session will stir up kindred sculptors all over the place.
Which NYC museum could take it?  MoMA might be too square.  And he’s too funny for the Whitney, right?  New Museum seems close, but maybe too close since Sean Landers bought his loft from the estate of Marcia Tucker, the museum’s founder (who once curated a show on Bad Paintinghttp://www.newmuseum.org/exhibitions/26_.  Spiraling toward the heavens, the ramps of the Guggenheim would herald the advent of the self-identified greatest artist of all time, and the sense of infinitude when combing through his endless volumes of legal-pad works -
while mimicking the downward spiral of too much introspection,
P.S. Another quote from Slacker: “Because I mean, like it’s some sort of spiritual hell to parody yourself at the hight of your ridiculousness.  So the guy’s got to get up every day, get as fat as he was, and just make fun of himself all day long.  isn’t that a killer job – don’t you think that’s what all old people do…once they get over twenty-eight?
“To those human beings in whom I have a stake, I wish suffering, being forsaken, sickness, maltreatment, humiliation–I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, and the misery of the vanquished: I have no pity for them because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not–that one endures.”

Is the impresario of Slacker art really a slacker?

Rob Pruitt, "Draw Yourself Into Your Favorite Cartoon"
Rob Pruitt, "Draw Yourself Into Your Favorite Cartoon"

The daisy chain of slackers in the Richard Linklater film are determined to withdraw, to sit it out, to pass.  “Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy,” they chant.

Sean Landers, "Dance of Life"
Sean Landers, "Dance of Life"

The slackers in Slacker are immobilized by the repetition and interchangeability of themselves and the world around them, where they find only morbid indifference.  Hence, the script swipes Joyce: “If he had smiled why would he have smiled? To reflect that each one who enters imagines himself to be the first to enter whereas he is always the last term of a preceding series even if the first term of a succeeding one, each imagining himself to be first, last, only and alone whereas he is neither first nor last nor only nor alone in a series originating in and repeated to infinity.”

And when the world stirs from its icy disregard, it responds with hostility.  In Slacker, society entails that men will traumatize women, women will “fuck you over,” travel is dangerous, and war is so inevitable that activists can’t keep up with their protest graffiti.  Everyone else just trades in his soul for work in one assembly line or another, even just to make Subway sandwiches. “Every single commodity you produce is a piece of your own death,” hisses the creepy chainsmoker straight out of prison.

Alex Barry, "I Wish I Was Sean Landers" from JAMES WAGNER'S BLOG
Alex Barry, "I Wish I Was Sean Landers" from JAMES WAGNER'S BLOG
Sean Landers, on the other hand, gets in the ring and wants to be heard!

Sean Landers, "Career Ego," 1999
Sean Landers, "Career Ego," 1999

“My original idea was to make conceptual art entertaining, sloppy, emotional, human and funny. Over the years I got so far out on this conceptual limb that I went around full circle until I was a traditional artist again. I tried to be ironic about it but eventually became sincere. Now I’m a happy victim of my own charade. I figure that it’s better to be a sucker who makes something than a wise guy who is too cautious to make anything at all.”

His world still hasn’t acknowledged its greatest living artist, him.  It is as frustrating as the bouncer not letting the rock star into the hotspot nightclub.   Through his prolific output of paintings, drawings, writing, sculptures, and videos, Sean Landers has vented his rants, diatribes, and ramblings.  The result is a cacophonous echo chamber of fanatic opprobrium.  The razor-edged tool he uses to relay his chronic skepticism works more like a boomerang than a frisbee.  He has devalued the world around him – “us” – for neglecting his genius, but then defames that same genius with the fervor of a chimp grooming Pigpen.

He is both the Garry Kasparov of self-flagellation and the Wile E. Coyote of grandiose delusions.   In either mode, he is not a representative of the shambling black hole of slackerhood, which absorbs and then annihilates everything in its orbit.
For one thing, his early persona is too insane to be a slacker.  Slackers are well-educated suburbanites all too familiar with reality – it bites.  And the later Sean Landers, more neurotic and terrified of what’s at stake, is too career-oriented to be a slacker.

Eponymous
Eponymous
But he IS the hyperactive narcissist who presaged status updates, tweeting about shopping, and editing your profile via iPhone.  This is the chief reason we should get a Sean Landers Museum retrospective.  St. Louis gets one, so why doesn’t New York?  His abundant text-based work is primary, but we can’t banish the oddball paintings that bummed out, man, some of his fans in 1997, who hoped to see more writing.

(l-r) Currin, Landers, Condo
(l-r) Currin, Landers, Condo
Those absurd demi-Disneys are proof of the outlandish extremes required to distract Sean Landers from himself, just the way you can cover your ears and hum to drown out unsavory news from a friend.  The 90s videos at Friedrich Petzel in 2008 are like the solitary soliloquies we find on youtube, where overopinionated emo-geeks pontificate to their webcams all night.

Compare to Josh Smith
Compare to Josh Smith
Second: he invented the text cloud, which topographically arranges the relevances of key words and thoughts.

Landers is "all-over" text clouds
Landers is "all-over" text clouds
Finally, our celeb-obsessed TV/magazine culture is starving for a look inside.  Celebutard heiresses and movie stars are safely nestled within layers of publicists and handlers paid to speak for and protect them.  We don’t get the real person, we just get the branded icon.  And that only happens when the star has a movie or album coming out.  Sean Landers, however, takes us into the tumultuous interior of a culturemaker, resulting in TMI-related embarrassment and uneasy grimaces.  A PR maven would freak out!

Landers tops Bochner
Landers tops Bochner
His text-based paintings elbow their way in between Mel Bochner, Ed Ruscha, Tracey Emin, and early John Baldessari (“I will not make any more boring paintings”), helping to escort in Cary Leibowitz and David Shrigley.  Maybe even Josh Smith.  Connect his thought-webs with the maps of Mark Lombardi and Beth Campbell.  His figurative paintings are Currin, Condo, Saul, and Weird Al.  A ten-minute jam session will stir up kindred sculptors all over the place.

Tim Noble & Sue Webster (l) VS. Sean Landers (r)
Tim Noble & Sue Webster (l) VS. Sean Landers (r)
Which NYC museum could take it?  MoMA might be too square.  And he’s too funny for the Whitney, right?

Candles: Urs Fischer in "Unmonumental" at NewMu VS. Sean Landers in '97
Candles: Urs Fischer in "Unmonumental" at NewMu (l) VS. Sean Landers at Rosen in '97 (r)

New Museum seems close, but maybe too close since Sean Landers bought his loft from the estate of Marcia Tucker, the museum’s founder (who once curated a show on Bad Painting).  Spiraling toward the heavens, the ramps of the Guggenheim would herald the advent of the self-identified greatest artist of all time, and the sense of infinitude when combing through his endless volumes of legal-pad works - while mimicking the downward spiral of too much introspection.

P.S. Another quote from Slacker: “Because I mean, like it’s some sort of spiritual hell to parody yourself at the hight of your ridiculousness.  So the guy’s got to get up every day, get as fat as he was, and just make fun of himself all day long.  isn’t that a killer job – don’t you think that’s what all old people do…once they get over twenty-eight?”

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One Response to “Will the Real Sean Landers”

  1. Continuing Education Blog » Blog Archive » Dance to the New SIC says:

    [...] participating seem to wall up Sean Landers and his peers from the great flea market of influence? This blog praises without reservation Sean Landers as a titan of 1990s art, and for some critics, he is THE FACE of that period’s [...]