wanderlust

Fucking James Franco!

You can think of "Gay Town," the current exhibition at Peres Projects, as a remora —those suckerfish that attach themselves to the bodies of larger marine animals for the sake of transport, protection, and survival — attached to the name "James Franco." The show is an ecology lesson in commensalism: a relationship between two organisms in which one benefits without bringing negative effects to the other. On the one hand you have the benefiting party, the plastic oeuvre of James, while on the other unaffected hand you have the film and media fame that surrounds the celebrity. His studio practice offers a good visual for this metaphor: wherever he travels to work on a film or other projects, a studio space also comes with him — one established deliberately separate from his living quarters — where he works on his art.

"Gay Town" developed precisely in this manner over the past two years. Whether set up in a hotel room or a makeshift facility, this remora had a lot of material to feed on: public vs. private identity, the nostalgia of adolescence, stereotypes and his preoccupation with our preoccupation with celebrities. Despite the show appearing as a giant, exposing self-portrait (covering every inch of the surrounding walls), because of the images he feeds us are images appropriated from his acting roles or of public perceptions of him, we irritatingly never get to know who fucking James Franco really is.

A Mask With Many Faces

James is a protean character, a shape-shifter at will. Similarly, his artwork is like a movie set: the frame of the canvas becomes another platform where he gets to act out a role, channel his creativity and perhaps continue to play pretend. When asked about the reason for the title of this exhibition, he simply alluded to the rumors in the media alleging his homosexuality but was not concerned with dispelling them, leaving the truth floating somewhere in the air. He mentioned that the art of Cindy Sherman and Paul McCarthy are major influences for his own work. This is evident in the video installation titled "Fucking James Franco."

james-franco-5 Intallation view of "Fucking James Franco" at Peres Projects. Photo: Chris Phillips

James explained that, “There was a guy in Oregon that edited a book called ‘Fucking James Franco’ which was a series of fictional pieces about my sex life. So there’s one episode where I have sex with spider-man on the set, and another one where I go to prison and have sex in prison. So I thought ‘here is someone appropriating my name and my public persona, well I’ll do the same thing. I will lend the real James into this project and act out everything that they describe.’”