Artist Tom Franco has been collaborating with his brother, actor James Franco, on a series of enormous ceramic sculptures at Mission Clay Products, a Phoenix-based factory that produces vitrified clay pipes used mainly for sewage.
“The Franco brothers frequently work together, but none of their projects has been as unusual or as ambitious as “Pipe Brothers.”
Through their Arts and Industry program, Mission Clay has provided materials and working space in their factory to artists for almost four decades. “Pipe Brothers” showcases the Franco brothers’ wide-ranging creative output while celebrating Mission Clay’s role as a catalyst within the arts community. Participating sponsor Elysium-Bandini Studios is devoted to ensuring the arts be available to local and diverse communities.
The Actor James Franco has made a successful career from being wildly unpredictable, playing a vast array of characters from James Dean to a supervillain in “Spider-Man” to a drug dealer named Alien. This next project has to do with pipes — no, it’s not what you’re thinking — though it does have to do with the gutter.
The actor, writer, director and producer is collaborating with his brother, full-time sculptor Tom (pictured above), in a new exhibit at the ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center. It makes its national debut on Saturday, June 17.
“Pipe Brothers: Tom and James Franco” is an exhibition consisting of nine large carved and painted ceramic sewer pipes, which measure seven and a half feet tall and weigh nearly 750 pounds apiece. It runs through Sept. 23.
“We love exhibits like these because an artist like James Franco the public knows and this is so unexpected,” said Garth Johnson, curator of ceramics at the ASU Art Museum. “Artists are doing incredible work with ceramics and they are helping to shine a light on the art ecosystem, and that’s a win for me.”
Johnson was quick to point out that Franco’s brother Tom is a respected and dedicated artist from the Bay Area who learned his craft at the California College of Arts in Oakland under the tutelage of veteran artist and textbook author John Toki.
“Tom Franco is an up-and-coming, dynamic Renaissance man who has tremendous drive and talent,” Toki said. “He also has a unique artistic bent.”
The Franco brothers frequently work together, but none of their projects has been as unusual or as ambitious as “Pipe Brothers.”
To create the artwork, the Francos — along with members of the Firehouse Art Collective, a non-profit Tom founded that provides affordable spaces where artists can live, work and collaborate — made frequent visits over the course of a year to Mission Clay Products, a Phoenix-based factory that produces the ceramic pipes, which are more durable and sustainable than plastic.
The Franco brothers had to adjust their working schedules to fit into the factory’s rhythms and equipment.
“We were easily putting in 14-hour days,” Toki said. “We’d have to flood the floor with water so the ceramic wouldn’t crack. It takes a strong soul to endure that, especially in the Arizona heat.”
The countless hours of carving and painting resulted in pipe pieces depicting a rabbit jumping rope, James Dean behind the wheel of his Porsche, and people playing soccer.
The exhibition runs through Sept. 23, 2017, ASU 699 S. Mill Ave., Suite 108
Tempe, Arizona 85281