Saturday, August 6, marked the opening of James Franco’s latest venture into the art world. High/Low Rob Lowe opened at Terence Koh’s Asia Song Society on Canal Street, but closed indefinitely the day after opening (and will not reopen). We know many of you have been suffering from Franco fatigue. Thoughts are definitely mixed about the actor’s rise in the commercial gallery world. Is he the real deal or just an over privileged famous guy? Honestly, he seems genuine, but that doesn’t mean he deserves the coverage he has gotten. Whatever you think, this whole Franco art thing doesn’t seem to be going away. In fact, this show seems to be one of several Franco related art events this month, including a collaboration with Gus Van Sant currently showing at P.S. 1.
Unlike his work at PS 1, which also had a run at Gagosian, the actor seems to have invested a significant amount of his own time and money into this latest show. The gallery’s main upstairs space features Franco’s new video short “Three’s Company: The Drama.” As the name suggests, the piece re-imagines the well-known 1970s sitcom as a raucous drama. The installation features six channels, overlapping at precariously tilted angles in a sort of projected collage. Ok, so I’ll admit its funny. I laughed out loud after hearing the characters sing, spoofing the original theme song, “Come and knock on my balls.”
The gallery’s basement is host to an installation of 50 TV monitors, each playing a segment of what seems to be hundreds of hours of Franco’s home movies, shot on 8mm film and his iPhone. The videos document a wide range of subjects, from the moody and evocative planes of Utah to nostalgic, fanboy footage of Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty.” The whole thing feels delightfully messy; unkempt thoughts spilling out into the darkness of the dusty basement hallway. Needless to say, it’s visceral, highly personal and the one part of the exhibition that I found really engaging.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting to like this show. Paying attention to Mr. Franco can be like watching an MFA student work in his studio while on national television. It’s an unavoidable truth that if this guy wasn’t a movie star, his show probably wouldn’t be given the time of day. That being said, I don’t think the show was groundbreaking or breathtaking, but it was solid. It worked, and that’s good enough for me. The way I feel, it’s kind of like watching your child (if you have one, which I don’t, but bare with me) grow up playing with a Fischer Price stove. Then one day you find yourself in the kitchen watching little Billy make you a grilled cheese sandwich. You eat it and it’s not spectacular but its food, but you are proud none the less.
High/Low, Rob Lowe was at the Asia Song Society (45 Canal Street, Chinatown, Manhattan) beginning on August 6, was closed the following day and it will not reopen.