James Franco – Actor or Artist?

5 December 2013 § Leave a comment

Its just not the done thing in the art world for an artist to have made their name elsewhere. God help an author, actor, musician or businessman with a talent in art – the art establishment will do its worst to avoid taking them seriously. Artists are required to be devoted to their trade and where any notion of their work being something other than a full-time activity damns them to the sidelines of history.

James Franco Psycho Nacirema

It is also dangerous for known artists to flirt with fame elsewhere. Yoko Ono has been frequently ridiculed despite her position as one of the most significant artists of her era – her sin of course was to cavort with a Beatle whilst making as much music as art. Grayson Perry‘s work is now less valid to many following over-publicity of his cross dressing and chat shows appearances. There are many more of course.

James Franco Psycho Nacirema

Those who first found fame outside the art world will find it even tougher. Bob Dylan and Ronnie Wood are trying their damnedest but are not accepted in the art world, their mediocre work doesn’t help. A new name to consider is James Franco. This from Franco’s Wiki entry: ‘an American actor, director, screenwriter, producer, teacher and author.’ They have obviously forgotten to add artist, since he has this year been shown at no less than Pace London.

James Franco Psycho Nacirema

His exhibition was entitled Psycho Nacirema (American backwards), featuring multi-media installations and presented by the Scottish artist Douglas Gordon. It presents a mise-en-scène of director Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 thriller Psycho, remodelling the infamous Bates Motel intertwined with the 1920’s Arbuckle scandal.

James Franco Psycho Nacirema

Gordon, an artist of considerable experience and a reputation, has openly acted as a curator and teacher for Franco reworking one of Gordon’s most well-known works – 24 Hour Psycho (1993). Franco states “Film is the medium that employs all art forms, but it is contained within the screen. We take this multi- form idea and pull it through the screen, so that the different forms are once again fully dimensional and a new nexus of interaction and significance is created. In this show, we go back to the original locations and images of Psycho and alter them so that once again the viewer’s relationship with the material changes. One becomes an actor when interacting with this work. Film becomes raw material and is sculpted into new work.”

James Franco Psycho Nacirema

This was an interesting multi-media collaboration, nicely summarised by Franco’s statement above, however, the suspicion for now remains that Gordon’s contribution was the greater. One suspects that he fleshed out Franco’s bare bones in to an interesting and surprisingly good exhibition. I shall look forward to the next and wait to see if more of Franco’s hand is visible!

James Franco Artist or actor? Undecided!

Psycho Nacirema was at Pace London between 6 June & 27 July 2013

See video at NOWNESS blog here

turner contemporary at margate

31 August 2011 § Leave a comment

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The old town centre of Margate has been somewhat revived by the arrival of the adjacent Turner Contemporary. Cafes selling frosted cup-cakes jostle for space with art galleries, vintage shops and boutiques in the historic lanes, old warehouses on the harbour wall are now artists studios. All very pleasant.

Over on the seafront, built on the precise former location of the eponymous landscape painter’s former lodgings, lies the striking new gallery. Dominating the seafront it is an impressive, white angular edifice.

Entering from a courtyard with an attractive cafe there is a feeling of space – there are high ceilings and vast windows overlook the sea with the reflected light that Turner so admired. Daniel Buren has here created a striking striped porthole through which the view can be enjoyed, but there is little more to commend.

Apparently ‘exploring themes of imagination, discovery, wonder and the creative spirit’ inspired by Turner’s painting The Eruption of the Souffrier Mountains Douglas Gordon makes some tedious word-play up the stairs to the gallery, globes from Russell Crotty reflect his ‘experience walking many different coastlines’, Conrad Shawcross’ installation is on the theme of a musical chord whilst Teresita Fernandez’s two works ‘explore the relationship between interior space and landscape’ .

Connections with Turner are tenuous to say the least, although Ellen Harvey’s work is rather more relevant and interesting with illuminated copies of Turner engravings created as scenes of contemporary Margate arranged in a darkened space and entitled Arcadia using fairground lettering.

The curators have wasted the momentum of the publicity gained by the new opening on a largely uninspiring display of mediocre work. Here was an opportunity to introduce the very best of contemporary art to a previously under-served area, instead the locals – including the ones I spoke to – are more inclined to call it a gigantic white elephant. Hopefully the next exhibition will be better.

Revealed: Turner Contemporary until 4 September 2011

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