Franco restages Cindy Sherman’s iconic 1977–1980 “Untitled Film Stills,” with Franco himself standing in for Sherman, who was (in her own version) standing in for a variety of actresses in B-movies. New York art critic @JerrySaltz called the works in that 2014 show at the @PaceGallery, Franco’s most high-profile in New York, “silly self-obsessed demi-drag re-creations,” and wrote that “at this point George W. Bush is actually a better artist than James Franco.”
Well, Franco makes a case for his art before his critic in an interview in this months New York Magazine.
Jerry Saltz: I think you think of yourself more as an outsider, and I think that all of us think of ourselves as that way. I like to call myself an outsider critic. But let me ask you — what’s my role as a critic? What should I do then when I confront your work?
James Franco: I guess what I wish is that at least you could look past the lens of me as an actor a little bit. But I also know that it’s sort of impossible and that I’m also making it hard for you to look past that because …
JS: You’re in the middle of it.
JF: But actually, you’ve written very well about the idea of celebrity as content. Is that worthy material, or a dead end?
JS: I think I wrote that celebrity is an essence that is a content more prevalent today in art than ever, and so I think people like Kim, Kanye, Miley, or you — to watch you guys trying to manipulate that, to mold it, is not a dead end to me. But when I see anything, I’m thinking, Where is the person’s own radical vulnerability in this? I had a problem with your work because what I was reading into it was something scattered, not focused. I could not see this person. I don’t want art to all be consistent and all look the same. I hate product art, and you don’t make product art. Amen. But sometimes when everybody’s doing everything all at once, it comes off as not doing anything at all.
JF: But I also don’t believe that there isn’t value in, whatever you want to call it, amateur work.