May 20, 2012


It may not be Halloween yet but that isn’t stopping James Franco from setting up what can only be described as Hollywood’s own personal haunted house. Rebel is a new exhibition that, along with the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, is an interpretative valentine to the classic film Rebel Without a Cause.

Using multiple artistic mediums including film, painting, sculpture and sound, the exhibit walks the viewer through a variety of scenes that pay homage to not only James Dean but other great Hollywood icons like Natalie Wood and Brad Renfro, each of which died at a young age.

The exhibit can be found in the JF Chen space on Highland Avenue in Hollywood. The exhibit wastes no time in shocking the viewer. Before even entering the space, you are greeted by an overturned car, totally wrecked and turned on its side. While the inside seems harmless enough actually walking into each of the rooms is a lesson in avant-garde imagery. The death of Natalie Wood takes a very Charles Manson-like approach to the subject and, although minimalistic, is a riveting way to begin the show.

A minimalized version of the Chateau Marmont ties together what is unquestionably an extremely abstract exhibit. Each of the rooms presents a new interpretation of either a key scene of the movie or the death of a Hollywood persona. From a stylistic standpoint, it is all beautifully done and finds a way to touch the viewers at their core. It truly feels like walking into a brand new environment that allows you to forget you are deep inside a warehouse in the media district.

The pop-up exhibit itself seems like a risk for everyone involved. Not only is it totally free but it also happens to be very well hidden. Surrounded by warehouses and unassuming buildings leading into Hollywood, the exhibit makes no real effort to call attention to itself. There is a large painted sign with the words ‘Rebel’ painted outside the building but the typography suggests more of a clothing store than a high-concept art exhibit. Getting inside is another issue as well, the door itself is tucked away on the far side of the parking lot away from the warehouse’s usual entrance. It seems as if Franco has made the show for those that really want to go the extra mile. While that shows integrity, it is also more than a little self-defeating as less people will get to see the show itself.

Franco himself is present throughout but never the main focus. His ability to stand aside and the let artists and directors do their thing is admirable. He clearly wants the message to come through more than his own persona. His fascination with Dean is obvious and the exhibit seems to allow him to explore their parallel lives in much greater detail.

In a sense, Dean’s accidental demise and the passing of someone in their prime allows Franco and his collaborators to dig up the skeletons in Hollywood’s closet and put them on display. The result is Hollywood’s own personal house of horrors, showing the public the grittier and more violent side of the celebrity lifestyle.

The exhibit runs through June 23rd at 941 N. Highland Ave. for more information visit Rebel.