Beverly Hills John
By May Zhee Lim, Markets Media Life Correspondent
Filmmaker, actor, and visual artist John Waters’ latest exhibit at the Marianne Boesky Gallery is his most provocative one yet. Beverly Hills John is the artist’s third solo show at the gallery, and will be on view from January 9 to February 14 at their Chelsea location. Waters’ photographic works often revolve around politically charged themes like “cinematic correctness” and media manipulation, drawing on his own experience as a film director for 50 years.
Beverly Hills John is Waters’ way of resolving the intensely psychological questions he’s had about his conflicting experiences with fame, sex, and more. Taking on everything from childhood fame issues to the horrifying possibility of ‘careericide’ (the much-used Hollywood term for career suicide), Waters’ artwork is visually stimulating and thematically hysterical, but also revealing and self-critical. In his self-portraits, Waters imagines himself in different forms: one as a despised and nostalgic dogcatcher, the other a grotesque portrait of what he would look like after a series of overdone plastic surgeries. With these depictions, Waters ponders his place in the movie business and the art world: “Now that celebrity is the only obscenity left in the art world, where do I fit in?”
Other works in the exhibition deal more directly with the role and language of art, including the jargon of success and disputed definition of a “classic.” Others are a reflection of his equally incendiary film-making career. In the main gallery, a video shows how Waters’ X-rated 1972 cult film Pink Flamingos would sound as a children’s movie, complete with an all-children cast doing a table read. Waters hopes the de-sexualized product, titled Kiddie Flamingos, comes off as more perverse than the original. Whether you leave the gallery scandalized or enraptured, Waters’ work is sure to leave an impression on even the most philistine among us.
Marianne Boesky Gallery is located at 509 West 24th Street. Hours are 10a.m. to 6p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays. Free admission.