Saturday, August 21, 2010

Frankly, Franco. . .

It was recently mentioned to me that the actor James Franco had decided to make his entrée into the world of visual art. I found it mildly interesting and a bit annoying.

It seemed, in my opinion, that his “celebrity” status would trump anything that he would create visually or become involved in whether he had valid artistic ability or not. And that is exactly what has happened as the press to date covering his first solo exhibit, The Dangerous Book Four Boys, at the Clocktower Gallery has been tremendous.

What has not been tremendous, however, are the reviews, at least not the review written by Roberta Smith for the NYTimes. To be fair, I have not personally seen the exhibit, and more than likely will not, so any review that I may have of the show would be unjust. However, Smith’s well written review should appease any non-NYC denizens curious about the exhibit.

Though I have personally seen moving and inspiring installation and video projection works of art in my time, (I once saw an installation/video projection work on the third floor of the Hirshhorn Museum that literally filled my eyes with tears), I am not usually a fan of such simply because there is so much room for pretentiousness. Because of this, most installation/video projection art, in my opinion, registers as a fail – a la The Emperor’s New Clothes. It seems that the majority of Franco’s exhibit centers around both.

Personally, I find it pretentious and uninspired to fill a room with “stuff from Mr. Franco’s actual childhood room strewn about in familiar disarray.” Yawn. Is this really the best that he could come up?


I have friends with teenage children that could probably give this particular installation by Franco, entitled “Scatter Piece”, a run for his money. Now, before you mistake me for one of those old-school, “Why that isn’t art!” type of artist, let me correct you. Installation works like “Scatter Piece”  have been created long before Franco’s. The questions that must be asked is, would this piece work if were created by any Joe Shmoe and not James Franco? Is it possible that James Franco was able to land his first solo exhibit at  the prestigious Clocktower Gallery simply because he is James Franco or did he really earn this exhibit and media attention because, as it states in the article, “he studied painting in high school and has apparently at times considered being an artist.” I don’t know the answer to these questions, but, inevitably, the mind goes there. Perhaps it’s the Pink Elephant in the middle of the installation.

While Roberta Smith doesn’t completely pan the exhibit, calling it a “confusing mix of the clueless and the halfway promising”, if I had to pick one word that represented her review of the show, I would chose the term mediocre. Or, maybe it’s no more than my reaction to the news that he was entering the world of visual art to begin with, “mildly interesting and a bit annoying.”

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