OUR COLUMNIST MIKE REFLECTS ON JAMES FRANCO AT PACE:
‘Apart from the tremendous insult to the work of Cindy Sherman, who is rightly a highly regarded photographer both technically and conceptually, what is this Franco person about? My initial question is: Is this foray into superficial “art” (in quotation marks as I’m not sure if it’s art or simply plagiarism or a desperate marketing stunt to gain notoriety and exposure in the cutthroat industry of being a celebrity, when one’s acting talent just doesn’t cut it) Franco’s own idea or is there a marketing mind at work behind this that is trying to promote the brand of Franco? That at least I could understand, even as I excoriate it as it justly deserves. If this is a real attempt at being a visual artist, then I think Roberta Smith is on the right track but is being very gentle and generous.
Is this ” an act of empathic dislocation” or simply an act of mercenary self-promotion? The concept isn’t his. The “65 excruciatingly sophomoric poems” seem to be his only original contribution, if he even did write them (at this point as he steals the idea and imagery of Sherman, I think the question of authenticity is wide open). Did he take the photographs himself, or is there a professional unnamed photographer(s) involved who are doing the actual technical work.
He seems to be the model (albeit not a very good one if, as Roberta Smith comments: “Mr. Franco, in contrast, is never less than Mr. Franco, his mustache, beard or hairy legs in full view, his face in an expression of studied vulnerability or simply a look-at-me smirk.”
So, where does Mr. Franco add value to use the economics terminology that seems to be fitting in this particular case, as it seems someone is attempting to steal from Sherman, bamboozle the interested public and fraudulently portray Franco as an artist. This sounds like criminal behaviour to me. I think perhaps Ms. Smith is diplomatically saying something similar, but has much more to lose than me by pushing the accusation to its logical conclusion. The gallery should be held responsible for this egregious rip-off of Sherman’s work, as this is not appropriation or inspiration from the original. It’s simply criminalization attempting to be passed off as the artistic process.’