In the Film “Guest of Cindy Sherman” which I wrote about here two weeks ago, John Waters is asked about what he thinks of ‘art for the masses’. He replies (to paraphrase), ” I can’t think of anything worse. I love elitism”. He is just as snide and devilishly funny in this exhibition entitled “Rear Projection”.

The signature piece for the show,(above)aside from the title piece “Rear Projection” at the Marianne Boesky Gallery says it all.

The show opened at the begining of April. There is only a day or two left to see it.
The tone of the show is not completely outrageous like the films are, (especially the early ones), because it is so neatly presented, matted and framed (by the James Pierce Frameshop)in Baltimore. Most of the images are picture sequences, like stills or a flip book: “Lezzie” is a piece in which the word becomes a whole flip book or film clip style. Like his films, the show is clever, knowing and funny.

Rear Projection, the title, refers to green-screening in film. That is when the actors are filmed in front of a screen and the scenery is projected behind them, often used in driving scenes. He makes a pun of rear ends being projected behind in the piece “Rear Projection”.

Look Out! 21 c prints 5x7ea

My favorite piece dealing with the rear projection idea is “Look Out”. These are my very favorite drama queens of the silver screen: Joannie, Bette and Lana, all shown in sequential car crashes. The spedometer is the the first clip and the overturned car the last. Bette’s maniacal face the second and Joannie brings up the rear with a 180 degree spin. This is brilliant in what it selects, how its put together and the way it shores up the concept of the exhibition. For me, it also recalls Andy Warhol’s Car Crash Prints :

Andy Warhhol
Green Car Crash, Disaster Series 1963

Some of the pieces may make more sense if the viewer is knowledgeable about the history of film. “Rope” and “Penmark Collection” both consist of stills depicting framed pictures that are on the wall in the film, perhaps at the scene of the crimes. Some I assume are from Hitchcock’s “Rope”, the other includes pictures that were on the wall in the film “The Bad Seed” with Patty McCormick. What a movie! The ultimate respectable middle class mother’s nightmare of a child. This theme ties in a little with “Girls Beware” which reminds me of those old Catholic salvos like “don’t wear patent leather shoes’ because boys will be able to see your underwear’s reflection in them. It also recalls “Serial Mom” where Kathleen Turner murders those who trangress to wear white shoes after Labor Day. He likes to tweak the noses of the powers that be with the threat of transgression. Patty McCormack plays the kid who murders about 5 people just because they try to make her obey.

Catholic Sin is an actual reproduction of an illustration from the Baltimore Catechism, the indoctrination manual for Catholic children that was created in 50’s and 60’s in Baltimore because it is still the seat of the Catholic Church in the U.S.. I was a product of the very same culture. My Baltimore source said they approached the church there and there were no copies to be found for John Waters to include in his exhibition. My guess is, maybe they did have them because they had to know who he is, and also knew that he wouldn’t flatter them. On his FaceBook fan page he claims that he is a great admirer of the Catholic Church before the Reformation. In his exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art (2004, he exhibited his collection of Catholic literature which is extensive. He also created a piece from the Catholic Review rated movies with the code: A, okay, B, might be a sin, and C condemned, no Catholic should ever see this or else!

Of course his movies were all C, that is, if the Church even knew “Pink Flamingos” or “Desperate Living” existed. The Maryland Censor Board certainly did. Every time I ever saw a Waters film in Baltimore the Maryland, Board of Censors approval notice was shown upside down before the film. He had to get past the censors.
“Catholic Sin” is an actual reproduction from the ‘handbook’, a milk bottle appears to be stand in for the soul. That’s pretty ironic.

He is still thumbing his nose-true to form.

Catholic Sin, 2009
(c-print 27×75)

NOTE-There is no official facebook page for John Waters. My source says they
are trying to make the person who made the page -or the facebook authorities
— take the page down. It’s bogus.

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