Famed art dealer Javier Peres – of Peres Projects – will cast his net a little wider in 2012, now venturing into the world of exhibiting art makers. Slated to open January 12th at Grimmuseum in Berlin, Peres’s work focus on the theme of collective and personal memory; in this case, realist paintings of River Phoenix. The 23-year-old Hollywood heartthrob died of a drug overdose in 1993.
According to the press release Peres sees Phoenix as “a martyr of his day and place”, an assertion that is never explained past observing that publicity photos showed him confident in some poses and vulnerable in others. There will be a concurrent screening of “My Own Private River”, the James Franco re-edit of Gus Van Sant’s unsentimental 1991 drama with a score by Michael Stipe.
Let me be the first to offer some advanced skepticism; based on the press release and image alone, one comes away with the impression that the show will reflect more cultural stereotypes than it mines. The death of River Phoenix may not mean much to the 20-somethings in my office, but to Generation X-ers like myself and Peres, the actor’s death was a spectacle of wasted talent and loss: the Heath Ledger of our time. As such, the subject matter itself is a cliche attached to the generation. Art by Gen Xers about River Phoenix has the same problems as dudes making art about trucks and guns and girls making art about barbies; even when executed well, it’s almost impossible to do more than act out a stereotype.