Bad Director’s Chair
February 7–March 8, 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.