Whitehot Magazine

February 2011, James Franco @ Peres Projects

James Franco, Untitled (Double third portrait polaroids), (detail), 2009
Photograph - 15 Polaroids, each 30.5 x 30 cm (12 x 11 inches) framed, JF9141
Courtesy, the artist and Peres Projects

James Franco: The Dangerous Book Four Boys
Peres Projects
Schlesische Str. 26
Berlin, Kreuzberg 10997
& Große Hamburger Strasse 17
Berlin, Mitte 10115
February 12, through April 23, 2011

Outside the Peres Project Mitte gallery young Berliners attempt to slip past a guest list in the clutches of two impeccably dressed women. Inside, James Franco presides over a chic basement lounge. Critics, creatives, art-stars and socialites wait in rotation for a photo-op, to offer a quick barrage of congratulations, or a chance to brush up against the Hollywood actor turned multidisciplinary artist.

Described by some as an "Everything-ist," Franco told me that he found himself dissatisfied with the direction of his acting career, so he re-routed his future into academia, and other arts. Shown initially at New York's Clockwork Gallery, The Dangerous Book Four Boys represents Franco's four year foray into drawing, photography, video and performance. Although Franco's experimentation as an artist started long before his New York debut, his move to show this work in both Peres Projects' Mitte and Kreuzberg locations mark his ambitious progression as an emerging artist on an international level. "The artist should make a romantic stab at the world or die trying," is how Franco ironically ends one of his performances pieces.

James Franco, Installation View, 2011
Courtesy, the artist and Peres Projects

The Dangerous Book Four Boys illustrates Franco parrying with identity, boyhood and the "sexual confusion" of adolescence through a plethora of “found,” constructed and slightly altered objects: a wooden rocket ship, complete with blast-off soundtrack, a melted plastic playhouse, a rubber penis, a mask, defaced copies of Conn and Hal Iggulden's guidebook for boys displayed on makeshift plywood plinths. In Mitte, faux-amateur projections play in front of plywood benches. In Kreuzberg, a wooden house frames a theatre. In the projection Franco appears as a masked character; a wolf, a clown, a rubber faced lunatic with a pirate voice recounting sexually grotesque experiences. In these performances of scripted chaos Franco successfully subverts his perceived image.

In conversation we casually discuss his transition from actor to multidisciplinary artist. Our talk leapt from his desire to explore the creative process, to his recent studies at Yale, on to Andy Warhol and the early work of Robert Mapplethorpe, whose early polaroid self portraits bare a similar aesthetic to his own series, "I like the immediacy of the polaroid. I like the way they look." When asked what pushed him into the visual arts realm he said, "Making this work allows me to create without any limitations." We agreed that it's about freedom for him, a solitary act.

Will James Franco, who combines a Warholian sense of the prolific with the ambitions of a Renaissance Man, be able to position himself as an established multidisciplinary artist? Only after he's pursued his many trajectories, and created a larger body of work, will we know for sure.


James Franco, Installation View, 2011
Courtesy, the artist and Peres Projects

Tara Hurst

Tara Hurst is a designer and writer currently living in Berlin. 

email: tara@penandaquarius.ca

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