James Franco was in Berlin last week, hanging with some of his students from California and introducing an art exhibition called, naturally, Gay Town. A Financial Times writer was there to write about it, and like virtually every James Franco conceptual multi-media whatsit, the description is hilarious. Maybe not Dicknose in Paris hilarious, but still funny.
Some of his feelings about celebrity form the subject of Gay Town.
The story quickly moves on from this sentence, but before we go with it, I just want to highlight what an amazing sentence this is. James Franco created a show expressing his deepest feelings about celebrity, and that show is called “Gay Town.” Wasn’t the singer of Gay Town on that Dr. Drew show a while back?
The exhibition is a sprawling, infernal mess. Mixed media from an evidently mixed-up mind: videos, printed rugs, neon signs, many of them profane, all questioning the motives of a culture that simultaneously values and trashes those to whom it assigns celebrity status. A recurring image is one of a crudely-drawn Spider-Man figure, with the words “F*ck Spider-Man” scrawled across it.
“At first I thought that I couldn’t involve my acting in my art; people wouldn’t take me seriously – they would say it wasn’t a good subject. But then I did this project called Erased James Franco (2009) that was loosely based on Robert Rauschenberg’s “Erased de Kooning” [drawing], where we collected all this stuff from my previous film performances and used it as raw material. It was a very interesting piece.
“And that showed me that all this stuff I do with film and my public persona is actually great material for the other work I want to do.” A lot of other artists – Cindy Sherman, Paul McCarthy, Douglas Gordon – look at the film and performance world and filter it through their own work. But here I am, in this unique position, with a foot in each world. And it is a great subject.”
Well De Kooning, sure, of course. My piece “The Oscars Are Hella Gay” was actually inspired by a fecal scrawl Kandisnky left on a mistress.
Assorted other quotes:
At a gallery opening later in the evening, a Berlin dealer will tell me that he finds Franco’s work “juvenile” – a not uncommon reaction.
Javier Peres, the gallery owner, tries to explain to mystified onlookers what the show is all about. “James uses fame as a basic ingredient in his work,” he says. “Like a painter uses oil.”
That is some of the best semi-meaningful BS I’ve ever heard. I’m kissing my fingers. That guy should be teaching a master’s class in how to describe art. “James Franco is like Rodin, if his clay had been self-referentiality.”
Franco is in turn asked what he does when he gets bored with “all that celebrity”. “I live most of my life in my own private space,” he answers. “It’s not an issue.”