James Franco, Brad Renfro Forever, 2011, featuring James Franco, Scott Haze, Mark Mahoney and Jim Parrack, 26 minutes, projection with sound, photo courtesy of the artist

MOCA presents Rebel, conceived by James Franco with Douglas Gordon, Harmony Korine, Damon McCarthy, Paul McCarthy, Terry Richardson, Ed Ruscha, and Aaron Young, that will focus on the 1955 James Dean movie “Rebel Without a Cause.”

Rebel will be on view from May 15 through June 23, 2012, at JF Chen, a newly emerging contemporary art and design space, located at 941 North Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038.

Ed Ruscha, Rebel, 2011, acrylic on canvas, courtesy of the artist

Douglas Gordon, James Dean, Self Portrait of You + Me and Me + You + You + Me + Me + You, 2011, prints and burned print, smoke and mirror, © Studio lost but found / Katharina Kiebacher

Paul McCarthy, Rebel Without a Cause Drawings, 2011, marker on paper, 14 x 17 in., courtesy Paul McCarthy and Hauser & Wirth, photo by Landon Wiggs


“Rebel is an interrogative ode to Nicholas Ray’s masterpiece Rebel Without A Cause (1955), conceived by Franco to embrace and mine the main themes and events in the original film. The exhibition reinterprets the film’s legends, the people involved, its place in Hollywood, film as a medium, and behind-the-scenes footage, in a new, fresh, and unconventional presentation of film, video installation, photography, painting, drawing, and sculpture, housed in and framed by iconic Hollywood structures.

In Rebel, the contributions of each artist are combined to capture the spirit of the original film through references to the auto and motorcycle culture of the 1950s, which James Dean was a part of; teenage angst and issues of identity back then, related to identity now; 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. The Chateau Marmont is one of the central points in Rebel, and perhaps the single most significant reference and home to Hollywood behind the scenes life, acting as a linking structure to the exhibition, and to several of the works presented.

Gordon’s renowned work with film is presented as a two-channel film installation, entitled Henry Rebel Drawingand Burning. The piece, inspired by Ray’s original film, in which Dennis Hopper made one of his first appearances on film alongside James Dean, was made in collaboration with Franco, and features son and actor Henry Hopper engaging in an improvised and disturbing performance of a man burning alive from the inside out, and a man-child drawing onto and into himself. Two four-part self-portraits of James Dean, Self Portrait of You + Me and Me + You + You + Me + Me + You 01 and 02 (2011), will also be included.

The exhibition will feature a video installation by Paul McCarthy and son Damon McCarthy, featuring Franco as James Dean, Paul McCarthy as Nicholas Ray, and others in ludicrous abstractions of events that were rumored to have happened during the making of Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause. The video, which is set in Bungalow Two at the Chateau Marmont, and references Hollywood and celebrity and art and the art world, is described by the McCarthys as “the beginning of an ongoing investigation into, and improvisations involving, a group of characters for a major multimedia installation work” to be presented in its entirety at “THE BOX” gallery in Los Angeles from May 11, 2012. “THE BOX” gallery is located at 805 Traction Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90013. That work will explore archetypal relationships between father and son, mother and daughter, as those dynamics played out on-screen and offscreen in the 1955 version, as well as relationships between those who made and acted in the film.

Rebel will present and document Caput, a short film by Harmony Korine, renowned and renegade filmmaker and director, and one of the new voices of teenage rebellion. Caput, is an artistic rendition of the famous, tensely choreographed scene in Rebel Without a Cause, where Jim (James Dean) and Buzz face off with switchblades outside the Griffith Observatory. In Korine’s adaption, switchblades become machetes strapped to the hands of two female BMX riding gangs, led by Dean and Sal Mineo, who face off wearing sneakers and bandanas covering their faces.

A selection of photographs by prolific artist Terry Richardson, will portray and explore Hollywood, celebrity, identity and sexuality, echoing the themes, characters and personalities contained in the original film and revisited in Rebel.

In a film made by Franco as a narrative journey by helicopter around Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign, Ed Ruscha, an iconic figure in the Los Angeles art world, is presented as the voice of Nicholas Ray, as he reads a monologue from The Blind Run, an early script by Ray for Rebel Without A Cause. A painting, Rebel (2011), by Ruscha will be reproduced and presented as a billboard sign as part of the exhibition.

Known for his dangerous, performance works made with cars and motorcycles, Aaron Young paints an abstract portrait of James Dean’s last moments on earth. A large-scale sculpture of a 1950 Ford Custom Tudor Coupe, the same type of car that killed James Dean and which Young dropped from an eighty-foot high crane into a desert ditch, will be presented along with four motorcycle sculptures, and three accompanying videos, Ghost (2011),Grapevine (2011), and Life’s a Drag (2011).

A collection of hand-drawn, animated vignettes, titled El Gato (2011) blooming from the erotic and dark undertones in Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause, animated by Galen Pehrson and voiced by Franco, Jena Malone, and Devendra Banhart, will be presented.

Rebel will feature films, video installations, and projections directed by and, in some cases, starring Franco. InBrad Renfro Forever (2011), filmed in real time and as a tribute to a contemporary rebel, Franco commissions legendary tattoo artist Mark Mahoney to carve the late actor Brad Renfro’s first name into his arm with a switchblade. A video, entitled Age 13 (2011), draws inspiration from the obscure 1955 public service announcement of the same name, Cattle (2011), an exploration of emasculation features the live castration of young bulls, and Bungalow Two presents a pastiche of the bizarre, violent and glamorous world of Hollywood in its heyday and the characters involved. Rebel will also include the film Sal, directed by Franco, which focuses on the final hours in the life of the actor, perhaps best known for his performance as a teenager smitten with James Dean’s character in Rebel Without a Cause, and a new film by Franco, The Death of Natalie Wood (2012).

Rebel will combine engaging, visceral, and multi-faceted artworks, which together represent the original film and the archetype of the multi-generational rebel with a new visual voice.

MOCA presented the first major American retrospective of the work of Gordon, entitled Douglas Gordon, in 2001; the first American museum survey of the work of Paul McCarthy, Paul McCarthy, in 2000; Edward Ruscha in 1990 and Cotton Puffs, Q-TIPS®, Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings Of Ed Ruscha in 2004; a work by Aaron Young inGeorge Herms: Xenpohilia (Love of The Unknown) in 2011; and a performance work by Franco entitled SOAP at MOCA: James Franco on General Hospital, in 2010.

A fully illustrated, 192-page, four-color, hardcover book entitled Rebel, featuring select works by the participating artists, writing by Franco, and an essay by Francisco J. Ricardo, PhD, faculty at RISD, author, and art theorist will accompany the exhibition. The book is published by OHWOW, and will be available initially at OHWOW and at the MOCA Store.”

Rebel is presented by Gucci.