MOCA presents James Franco’s ‘Rebel’; taps Beastie Boy for fest


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MOCA announced Wednesday an exhibit conceived by celebrity art rogue James Franco that will focus on the 1955 James Dean movie ‘Rebel Without a Cause.’

‘Rebel,’ though presented by MOCA, will be on view at JF Chen, the Hollywood space of furniture dealer Joel Chen. The show, running May 15 to June 23, also includes work by Douglas Gordon, Harmony Korine, Damon McCarthy, Paul McCarthy, Terry Richardson, Ed Ruscha, and Aaron Young that will explore the themes of the movie, a classic of teenage angst directed by Nicholas Ray.


The choice of venue is already raising a few eyebrows in the art world. JF Chen is described by the MOCA news release as ‘a newly emerging contemporary art and design space.’ Indeed, in conjunction with Pacific Standard Time, Chen opened his space to the public last fall for the exhibition ‘Collecting Eames, the JF Chen Collection.’ But the news release also notes that Chen was a donor to the ‘Rebel’ exhibition.

As the Modern Art Notes blog puts it, ‘It’s extremely unusual — and perhaps unprecedented — for a museum to put an exhibition in a space owned by a dealer or to accept funds from a dealer to place an exhibition in a space he owns.’

A MOCA spokeswoman clarified to MAN’s Tyler Green that Chen will not be selling any of the objects in the exhibition. “Joel Chen is very interested in and supportive of contemporary art and design, and he’s been incredibly collaborative with this project,” MOCA spokeswoman Lyn Winter said to MAN. “The project is being presented by MOCA in conjunction with the artists and JF Chen has been very supportive in hosting the exhibition.”

‘Rebel’ was originally scheduled to appear in Venice during the biennial last spring but it was shelved. Nevertheless, some of the stunt-like artworks connected with the show grabbed headlines, including a film shot in real time of Franco getting the late actor Brad Renfro’s name tattooed on his arm. Renfro died in 2008 at age 25 of a heroin overdose, but in better days, the two actors appeared together in the 2002 gang tale ‘Deuces Wild.’ ‘Brad Renfro Forever,’ billed as a ‘tribute to a contemporary rebel,’ will show at JF Chen, along with other films made by or in collaboration with Franco.

In some of those films, Franco steps into the role of the red-jacketed prince of angst. In a video installation by Paul McCarthy and his son Damon, Franco appears as Dean and Paul McCarthy as director Ray in what’s described by MOCA as ‘ludicrous abstractions of events that were rumored to have happened during the making of Ray’s ‘Rebel Without a Cause.’’

Though the show is bristling with masculinity, filmmaker Korine has found a way to bring in a woman’s touch -- if you count lacerating wounds as touching. In a redo of the famous knife-fight scene at the Griffith Observatory, Korine has dueling female gangs on BMX bikes in bandannas, with machetes in place of switchblades.


In other MOCA news, director Jeffrey Deitch has tapped a major pop-music personality to curate an upcoming cultural festival that will include an art exhibition at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary. Mike D of the Beastie Boys, aka Michael Diamond, will curate ‘Transmission L.A.: AV Club,’ showing April 19 to May 10.

In a recent interview with Black Book, Mike D says the show will be ‘all about the experience. It kind of drives me crazy when you see people at museums reading the cards next to pieces the whole time. In a way, you could call this show ‘No Manual Necessary.’ Just build it!’

The Mike D-curated show was added to the schedule after ‘Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974’ was postponed seven weeks. ‘We took a few more weeks to fundraise successfully for the exhibition, which opens May 27,’ MOCA spokeswoman Lyn Winter told Culture Monster.

‘We took the resulting scheduling opportunity to host a very exciting festival of art, design, music and food curated by Mike D,’ Winter said. ‘It will be very attractive for the L.A. art and music community.’


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-- Margaret Wappler