Opening Night: "Rebel"

Rebel, the much-anticipated Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art exhibition, opened its doors this weekend with an exclusive party at the JF Chen Gallery in West Hollywood. The exhibit was conceived by writer, actor, director, teacher, and all-around powerhouse, James Franco. “I have a long history with the raw material,” he said, “by being fascinated with James Dean, which started way back when I was in high school, and then in acting school, and by eventually playing him in a television biopic in 2000. Then, about ten years later, I read a book that was all about the making of the film, Rebel Without A Cause, and it re-sparked my interest in the material, so I wanted to revisit it, but not in a way that I had done before.”

The result is Rebel, which the MOCA calls as “an interrogative ode to Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without A Cause,” conceived by Franco, in collaboration with filmmaker Harmony Korine, photographer Terry Richardson, and artists Edward Ruscha, Aaron Young, Douglas Gordon, Galen Pehrson, and father and son duo, Paul McCarthy and Damon McCarthy. Through a variety of mediums including film, video installation, photography, painting, drawing, and sculpture, the pieces from each artist “combine to capture the spirit of the original film," says MOCA, "through references to the auto and motorcycle culture of the 1950s that James Dean was a part of, teenage angst and the issues of identity, patrilineal exchange and the relationships of father and son and mentor and student, male and female sexuality, fiction and fact, and Hollywood and the art world.”

All of those themes are portrayed vividly and uniquely throughout the exhibition, from photographs by Richardson featuring Franco in drag; to short film Caput by Korine that recreated the famous knife scene from the film using naked women, BMX bicycles, and machetes; to Young’s documentation of a 1950 Ford Custom Tudor Coupe – the same model which killed Dean – being dropped from an eighty-foot crane to the desert floor; to Pehrson’s animated short film, El Gato, featuring the voices of Franco, Jena Malone, and Devendra Banhart; and much more.

Each piece has some connection to James Dean and his most famous role as Jim Stark, but all are distinct, unusual, and idiosyncratic in their own rights. No other tribute or accolade for James Dean and his most highly regarded character has ever been quite like this.

The exhibit opens its doors to the public at the JF Chen Gallery on May 15 and runs through June 23, Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free.

–Erin Kelleher

Photos by: Chris Swainston

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