Actor/artist James Franco's perplexing yet amusing exhibition The Dangerous Book Four Boys ends next month, so you have a few days still to check it out at The Clocktower Gallery located in Art International Radio's Tribeca offices. The exhibit features twenty films by Franco along with sculptures, photographs, drawings, site-specific video installations and ephemera. Inspired by the Boy Scout-like book The Dangerous Book For Boys, the artist's work "draws upon traditional depictions of masculinity, sensuality and celebrity, upending them in manners at once humorous, salacious and disturbing" (from show's press release). Franco also "toys with the language of popular culture, referencing real and fictional public icons, including his own public persona, in order to highlight the ways in which fame and celebrity are personalized and made meaningful."
Videos and photos document Franco and team outdoors building (or destroying?) the two large wooden house structures and rocket ship that are on display in the main gallery where defaced pages torn from The Dangerous Book for Boys are also displayed . The plastic toys, plastic playhouse, rubber masks, and various other odds and ends piled in a corner in the front gallery also appear in the photos. Though I had difficulty watching the videos because of the shaky camera work (I get super nauseous) the few minutes I watched of Dicknose Goes to Paris were pretty funny. In it, an overacting Franco wearing a fake dick over his nose like a Paul McCarthy sculpture along with the bearded, suited Bill Faulkner and the masked and deranged Billy, travel to Paris because Franco's favorite director, Wes Anderson, lives there. In a disturbing video practically hidden in a stairwell, a group of young boys are shown beating up another and then raping him.
Franco's debut solo exhibit is odd yet fascinating. His youthful enthusiasm, strange sense of humor, and willingness to poke fun of himself make it easy to appreciate if not fully grasp The Dangerous Book Four Boys (though it's hard to forgive the bad grammar). The back of the invite for the exhibit printed this helpful bit of advice and excellent excerpt from The Dangerous Book for Boys — "Don't swagger. The boy who swaggers—like the man who swaggers—has little else that he can do. He is a cheap-Jack crying his own paltry wares." I'm guessing James Franco probably doesn't swagger.
Fortunately I read this Village Voice review prior to heading out to see the show or else I probably wouldn't have found The Clocktower Gallery. It's located downtown amid all the courthouses at 108 Leonard Street in an unnumbered city building. You have to go through security, have your bag x-rayed, take the elevator up to the twelfth floor where you then follow signs to a staircase that leads you up one more floor to the gallery. Getting to the Clocktower is almost as quirky as the show the gallery is hosting! Learn more at artonair.org. Through September.
The Clocktower Gallery is operated by Art International Radio or AIR, a non-profit, online cultural radio station created by PS 1 founder and former director Alanna Heiss who also curated The Dangerous Book Four Boys along with Beatrice Johnson. Learn more or listen at artonair.org.