Now Water-Based

…And Your Family Too, 2009; Installation shot; Control, 2008. Courtesy of Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York.


The press release for “Rear Projection,” John Waters‘ latest exhibition at Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York (with a concurrent showing at Gagosian Los Angeles) explains that the title is film jargon for the process in which a foreground action is combined with a (typically generic) background actio. All those old movie stars driving around Paris? Rear Projection. So the focus in this show was nominally the absurdities of stagecraft and celebrity photosâ??the efforts at stagecraft that entertainment takes to collapse time and place, and create fantasty. Waters collects film stills of children smoking cigarettes to compare these effects with kitsch.

Particularly in a period of economic contraction, signifiers of wealth are sources of absurdity, but they’re not something we’re necessarily going to give up. Both this writer and the artist profess a fondness for Creme de la Mer. I may stock up, but Waters does me one better by monumentalizing the rich face cream with a smooth oversized vat. At $130 per ounce, were this baby filled up it might be more expensive as a beauty product than as a work of art. That question of value broaches questions of an artwork’s true contentsâ??particularly the promise of youth, beauty, pleasure, what-have-you at the level of consumption. Elsewhere, “…And Your Family Too” is a series of four c-prints that reads “Contemporary”/”Art”/”Hates”/”You” in dated commercial fonts. The question of value becomes one of contextâ??conditioning, evenâ??and thus one of communication. Who does art love? Maybe itself.

John Waters Rear Projection is on view at Marianne Boesky through May 2. Marianne Boesky Gallery is located at 509 West 24 St., New York.