The star, literally, of the "2012 RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition," the school's annual showcase of its graduating graduate student talent at the Rhode Island Convention Center (1 Sabin Street, Providence, through June 2), is James Franco, the hunky Golden Globe-winning actor of 127 Hours, Spider-Man, and General Hospital fame. In recent years, he's also kept a manic pace, studying at Columbia, NYU, Brooklyn College, Warren Wilson, Yale, and RISD — often simultaneously.
LOVE SHACK Franco’s Fucking James Franco.
His installation, which was being assembled by a few assistants last week, is a wisecracking response to how people have responded to his celebrity and success. In particular, the title Fucking James Franco — which is written in neon on a shack plastered with hundreds of fliers scrawled with that text — references an anthology of erotic fan fiction about him.
The exterior walls are hung with blankets printed with so-so paintings of Franco in various roles (James Dean, Allen Ginsberg, Harvey Milk's boyfriend Scott Smith) that look like something you'd by from a guy selling them out of a van parked at an abandoned strip mall. Inside is a mattress on the floor surrounded by sex dolls. A box offers "The Thrusting James Franco Super Cock (waterproof)" dildo. Monitors blare absurdist videos of Franco reading; a Hulk versus Spider-Man sex scene; and someone rapping, "I say James, y'all say Franco." It has an absurdist, manic, sexualized vibe.
If someone else had made it, the installation would be an okay/curious/obsessed/sort of funny take on our desire for celebrities. Coming from Franco himself turns it inside out, adds a "fuck all y'all," but a knowing wink too.
If you're looking for other stars in RISD's annual thesis show, here are 10 artists among the nearly 200 on display that are worth checking out:
• Amber Heaton's Again and Again is a dark room with strings woven between the walls like 1960s cosmic string art. Light projected across the strings, and seemingly hovering in mid-air, shimmers like water or constellations, then holds on a design that suggests a full moon.
• Michael Tauschinger-Dempsy's Out of Service is a cross between a corner grocery and a maniac bomber's lab. A counter displays artificial legs and faux cell phones; cases display pikes juryrigged from table legs and rakes and throwing knives shaped like stealth bombers and drone aircraft. Biting, funny, slacker demo videos show a guy practicing hurling the knives at soda bottles, which explode on the ground with World War III sound effects.
VARIETY SHOW Nelson-Bouck's towers.
• Emily Cornell du Houx's Kraken is an elaborate cobweb of string built over a steel armature and curling upward like a macramé tornado.
• Niu Miao's lushly envisioned — though at times confusing to navigate — first-person-shooter video game Killing Buddha is about Buddhism, crass consumerism, enlightenment, and losing belief. Scenes include an underground parking garage, a giant statue of a Buddha amidst floating flowers, gambling against the Buddha in a casino with dancing girls, and a crystal store shaped like the Buddha's head. It's all rather ludicrous, but that's part of its draw.