Hollywood is chock-full of representations of celebrities, from images on billboards to wax figures in Hollywood Boulevard museums. As tourists flock to the area to see the stars on the Walk of Fame, the rest of Los Angeles keeps its distance.
Not far from the center of the celebrity-worship universe, the new art space at Hollywood and Wilton hosted a show that reminds us just how hilarious it is that we obsess over famous people.
In “Smash That Like,” Caroline Goldfarb, who's best known as the creative brain behind the Instagram account @officialseanpenn, uses collages to address the barrage of celebrity images we see online and IRL.
“I've always thought of my pop culture collages as *~true art~* and have dreamed for a long time of blowing them up super big for an IRL show,” Goldfarb wrote in an email. “My friend Faye Orlove approached me about doing a solo show for the opening of her new venue Junior High and I was immediately on board.”
The show also included a pop-up shop from BB Dakota and a stellar cake featuring an old-school photo of the Olsen twins. (If that doesn’t give a millennial major flashbacks, we don’t know what would.)
But the main attraction: 4-by-4-foot collages featuring photos of celebs like Rihanna and North West but also Monica Lewinsky and Justin Bieber accompanied by Donatella Versace.
“Collages are my medium of choice; I have a weird obsession with hoarding paparazzi photos, weird red-carpet looks, pics from celebrities' social media, really any weird celeb images that inspire me. I usually make collages on Photoshop, but I'm not afraid to get down and dirty and use a bunch of obscure Korean apps on my iPhone to make some art on the go."
More than 300,000 people follow Goldfarb on Instagram, where she posts the most ridiculous celebrity images, some manipulated, some not. She recently shared two photos of Alec Baldwin with sweat stains on his shirt; the caption reads: “call me crazy but I love me some candid pics of sweaty alec Baldwin … zamnnnn zaddyyyy #instawet.” She’s also got a thing for the new Ninja Turtles (“Is it wrong that I’m *extremely* turned on by the new ninja turtles?” her caption reads).
The rest of the feed is a mix of quips about recent pop-cultural moments or memes. She’s got an uncanny ability to cull the funniest and most ridiculous images. Scrolling through her feed, you realize there’s something strange about the way celebrities are constantly photographed — but that’s what makes it so hilarious.
That same sense of humor pervades a lot of “Smash That Like.” It was the ridiculousness of these well-known faces that stood out the most — the way famous people become caricatures of themselves.
The show serves up a heavy dose of nostalgia; visitors can consider where they were in their lives when Monica Lewinsky became a household name or North West was born. The collages are humorous, but their frenetic energy makes them strangely fascinating.
“Celebs are rich AF, pretty AF and fashionable AF,” Goldfarb wrote. “People that pretend they're not interested at all in celebrities or pop culture are lying. While some people might not be on my level (i.e., browsing Snooki's Etsy page in their spare time), I truly believe we're all kind of fascinated by pop culture and celebrities to some extent.”
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If you examine them closely enough, Goldfarb’s pieces start to reveal messages that go beyond the obsession with celebs. One piece, for example, shows old photos of white celebs sporting cornrows. They pose nonchalantly, seemingly unaware of their strange hairstyle choice — or that they'd eventually be cut and pasted into the context of a collage with other cornrowed white celebs.
“Ah, yes,” writes Goldfarb in response to the question of whether this piece means to make a political statement. “I just think it's really funny that white celebs can NOT wear cornrows without inciting a (rightful) internet shitstorm of people calling out their racial appropriation. I just wanted to remind people that white celebs like Justin Timberlake, Xtina, Paris Hilton, Jared Leto and more have been rocking inappropriate cornrows for years — and getting away with it. I want to call them out.”
At the show’s opening, Junior High gave away bright-pink tote bags bearing Kris Jenner's face (in six forms) to the first 100 attendees. As the guests moved around the room, Jenner's face seemed to float through the space, joining her other celebrity friends. Little did Jenner know that her face was on tote bags in a gallery show like this — but then again, she’s probably used to her image being everywhere.
"Smash That Like," Junior High, 5656 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; on view until June 16. The pieces are also available here.