James Franco is as meta as it gets, the ultimate in creative cross-pollination. He’s an actor-turned-artist-turned-author-turned-actor-playing-an-artist-named-Franco in the soap opera “General Hospital." His new self-referential filmic offshoot, “Francophrenia” documents that experience. He’s also been cast in the upcoming Seth Rogen movie, in which he plays -- who else -- the actor-artist-author James Franco.
Drawing on all those areas of interest, Franco appeared at MOCA on Saturday in conversation with art theorist and Rhode Island School of Design digital culture lecturer Francisco Ricardo. The sold-out event –- which drew an appropriately young, hip-looking crowd of roughly 200 -- marked the release of Franco’s new book, “The Dangerous Book Four Boys.” The book is a companion to the 2010 New York exhibition of the same name and collects interviews, photographs and multimedia artworks around the themes of childhood and media, among other things.
Not surprisingly, however, Saturday’s conversation defied compartmentalization and strayed much farther afield. After a somewhat heady and hilarious dissection of Franco’s short film “Dicknose in Paris” (a clip was shown), the conversation ricocheted among topics, including Franco’s love of Faulkner; insider stories about director Nicholas Ray; Natalie Wood and Dennis Hopper during the filming of “Rebel Without a Cause”; and the upcoming MOCA show called “Rebel.” The latter, a high-concept group show that Franco conceived, is inspired by the iconic James Dean film and opens in May. It’s brimming with art world star power with works by Ed Ruscha, Harmony Korine, Damon McCarthy, Paul McCarthy, Douglas Gordon, Terry Richardson, Aaron Young and Franco.