Sprüth Magers

John Waters

07 Feb - 12 Apr 2014

John Waters
Neurotic, 2009
4 C-prints
je 20,3 x 25,4 cm
8 x 10 inches each
57,2 x 67,3 cm (framed)
22 1/2 x 26 1/2 inches (framed)
Copyright John Waters
Courtesy the artist / Sprüth Magers Berlin London /
Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
John Waters
Bad Director’s Chair
07/02/2014 – 08/03/2014
One of the most celebrated directors in American independent cinema, John Waters is at his vibrant
best when flaunting Hollywood’s rules or reveling in bad taste. The director of Pink Flamingos
(1972) and Pecker (1998) brings the same wit and audacity to the art gallery. Perched upon his Bad
Director’s Chair, Waters has cast his eye over some unlikely corners of the film business,
transforming his observations of all the glamour and heartbreak of Hollywood into photographic
essays and narrative sculptures that are both ridiculously honest and brutally humorous. Waters
becomes the self-appointed press agent for his newly conceived “little movies” who would surely be
fired the first day of a shoot by the furious producers.
Waters began making his photo-based work in 1992 by watching movies, using his insider
knowledge to stay alert to those telltale moments and details that everyone else overlooks, not least
the movie’s director. He snaps a single frame from a film, often from a TV, and recombines these
images into a storyboard-like sequence, thus re-directing some of his favorite films through playful
acts of appropriation. Cut off from their source, the stills take on a range of new meanings, and the
strip sets off a loose, irresolvable set of associations or narratives. Product Placement (2009)
features iconic film stills re-photographed and altered to show famous movie stars promoting banal
consumer items as if they were magic talismans essential to the story. There’s no room for
reverence here: Waters makes Aschenbach, the lovesick composer from Visconti’s Death in
Venice (1971), grasp a jar of pasta sauce instead of reaching out for imperishable beauty. Rear
Projection (2009) treats a series of actors’ bottoms as if they were cinema screens, or places
anonymous backsides in preposterous cameos, looming absurdly in the background. Even the
finale of a film is altered forever: after given a new life by Waters, the words “The End” will never
mean quite the same thing again.
The same mischievous spirit goes into one-liners such as Epic (2003), where Waters takes the title
treatment of 70s disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure and turns it upside down, like the doomed
cruise ship that is the movie’s namesake. With an insider’s wink, Waters collapses one of
Hollywood’s most beloved “disaster movies” into a single image. Neurotic (2009) shows four flash
cards in a single frame. Are the little title treatments from a documentary about psychiatry? Or are
they being shown to a live TV audience, instructing them how to feel about a scene? “Sorrow”,
“Anxiety”, “Suffering” and “Disappointment” appear simultaneously as if a sudden reflection of the
viewer’s state of mind. But who is being mistreated here, the feelings of the audience or all of show
business itself?
Waters brings a darker mood to his sculptures. In Playdate (2006) Michael Jackson, all dressed up
in cuddly pink pajamas, lifts his hand up to a diminutive but fully bearded Charles Manson. “Two
famous media villains,” says Waters about his work, “Charles Manson and Michael Jackson, reborn
as perfect babies – could they have saved each other if they had met on a playdate before their
lives went wrong?” In Bad Director’s Chair (2006), a typical canvas chair demanded by Hollywood
auteurs is labeled with words that seem to reflect the deepest doubts of any filmmaker.
“Unprepared”, “Hack”, “No Shot List”, among other disasters, all appear printed on the wood or
canvas, as if the chair itself was the embodiment of an on-set nightmare.
Also part of the exhibition, three of the artist’s earliest films, Hag in a Black Leather Jacket (1964),
Roman Candles (1966) and Eat Your Makeup (1968), will play in loops in specially designed ‘peep’
Beyond the gallery, Image Movement will show John Waters' Top Ten Art Films You Should Watch
Now, while DFFB will host a solo exhibition of his photographic work, focusing on the series Marks.
John Waters will bring his lecture This Filthy World to Germany, appearing at the Schauspiel,
Cologne on 7 February, Volksbühne, Berlin on 9 February, and the Kampnagel, Hamburg on 10

Tags: John Waters