James Franco at Pace Gallery Reviewed by Roberta Smith

James Franco’s “New Film Still #35” (2013).
2014 James Franco, Pace Gallery

James Franco’s “New Film Stills” at Pace Gallery recently received a dismissive and amusing review in¬†The New York Times. Although the exhibit, characterized by Roberta Smith as desperate and cynical, hardly seems worth¬†mentioning, its content relates to works analyzed in ARHA253. Franco’s exhibit features photographs that restage around 25 images from Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills, 1977-1980.” Franco’s photographs are coupled with 65 “excruciatingly sophomoric” poems inspired by Sherman’s seminal series. As we examined in class, Sherman effectively assumed the roles of female cinema stereotypes in the voyeuristic “Untitled Film Stills,” “disappearing” into the characters she portrayed. Franco, in contrast, is unable to conceal his own identity in his series; his “mustache, beard, or hairy legs in full view,” Franco unintentionally lampoons Sherman’s photographs. After studying Sherman’s works, I agree with Smith’s assertion that Franco’s efforts come across as “embarrassingly clueless.”


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