James Franco Dresses In Drag, Mimics Cindy Sherman’s Photographs

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At current his exhibition at PACE Gallery, the actor James Franco tries his hand at self-portraiture, posing as the legendary photographer Cindy Sherman in replicas of her 1970s student project Untitled Film Stills, a series of silver gelatin prints in which she dressed as iconic women in film. In this strange mimesis of Sherman’s own impersonations, he reflects on an actor’s place, calling into question fixed notions identity, gender, and time.

Sherman, often playing the role of shape-shifting Bacchus and pushing the boundaries of selfhood, questioned the limitations of contemporary femininity, presenting clearly-defined roles for women: the femme fatale, the ingenue, the metropolitan sophisticate. Her film stills represent a sort of painful self-awareness; the film stops mid-reel, and the heroine introspects: who am I, beneath this costume?

The dialogue is complicated by Franco’s series, which in essence, presents an actor playing the role of artist playing the role of actor; what’s more, he’s a man playing at womanhood. Unlike most modern drag, where men seem to flawlessly transform into women, Franco insists on asserting his masculinity; in most of the images, he wears an unconvincing blond wig and facial hair.

Where there is a sort of anxiety in Sherman’s stills, the self-consciousness of being watched as expressed through a downturned lip and upward gaze, a housewife’s mishap in the kitchen, Franco’s New Film Stills project a self-assurance that borders on arrogance. His identity is unchanging, for unlike Sherman, his transformation is incomplete. He knows who he is, remaining forever the actor, who, in Brechtian fashion, refuses to lose himself completely to the character. Take a look. (via BUST, Art in America, and Interview)

Performative Sculpture And Photography Mash-Ups

Trisha Holt - Photography

Charlie White + Katy Grannan

Trisha Holt - Photography

Man Ray + Francesca Woodman

Detroit artist Trisha Holt builds performative sculpture from blown-up photographs twisted, masked, or hugged onto live models in everyday settings, then reshoots for a surrealistic effect. This series, titled Love Child, creatively cross-breeds two iconic & artistic souls with one another. The top image, for example, is the offspring of “Charlie White Katy Grannan“. The second one is of “Man Ray + Francesca Woodman”. Both are titled so accordingly. Can you see the resemblance?

Holt’s work is a stunning collection of mash-ups which humorously and humbly troubles over its own worth in the world, playfully echoing this song by The Supremes: “Love child, love child / Never quite as good / Afraid, ashamed, misunderstood / But I’ll always love you.”

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Art:21 Season 5!

Usually I don’t get too excited about shows on PBS but I have to say that Art:21 is by far the best thing i’ve ever watched on public television. If you’re not familiar with the show, Art: 21 is the only prime time show dedicated exclusively to contemporary artists. Each season follows 14 of the biggest names in the art world as they walk you through their conceptual process, studio practice and share rare behind the scenes footage of work in progress. Some of my favorite episodes from previous seasons include the legendary interview with Barry Mcgee and his wife Margaret Kilgallen and LA painter Lari Pittman. This is a must see show for anyone interested in the international contemporary art world.

I received a preview copy of Season 5 and I’m happy to announce that it does not disappoint with another set of interviews with art legends such as John Baldessari, Cao Fei, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, and many more.

Season 5 premieres Wednesday, October 7, 2009, at 10:00 p.m. (ET).
More Art:21 trailers after the jump.