Art and Craft

Mark Landis has spent 30 years placing more than 100 of his own forged artworks at 46 museums in 20 states. But he donated them, so technically it’s not fraud. Who is this guy? A diagnosed schizophrenic, self-diagnosed philanthropy addict, and the can’t-look-away subject of Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman’s documentary, Landis is an odd duck, all right, but his work — particularly, the work of deception — resonates. It’s not the money he’s in it for, it’s the getting away with it. The essential stuff of Art and Craft seems like it could be in a fiction film, except then it might seem inauthentic. “He messed with the wrong registrar,” says Matthew Leininger, a man as obsessed with tracking and exposing Landis as the forger is with putting out his fakes. The filmmakers set up Leininger as a sort of Javert to Landis’ Valjean, and the nemesis angle pays off fascinatingly well in a very awkward interaction between the two at an exhibit of Landis’ acknowledged forgeries. Cullman and Jennifer Grausman rightly suppose that critique of art-establishment phoniness never gets old, and they reveal how individual mental illness can manifest collective anxiety about cultural ideals, but mostly this is a movie about unusual people and how they see the world.