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The Wexner Center for the Arts unveils 'John Waters: Indecent Exposure'
John Waters, Study Art Sign (For Prestige or Spite), 2007. Acrylic and urethane on wood and aluminum. Courtesy of Sprüth Magers Gallery © John Waters.

COLUMBUS, OH.- For its winter 2019 season, the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University welcomes back a longtime friend, John Waters, for the first major retrospective of his visual art.

John Waters: Indecent Exposure, on view February 2 through April 21, 2019, reveals how Waters has transmuted his personal obsessions into a singular body of work through more than 160 photographs, sculptures, sound works, and moving image pieces. Organized by The Baltimore Museum of Art, the exhibition debuted there in October 2018 before its presentation at the Wexner Center, the only other venue to host it.

In 1999, the Wex’s John Waters: Photographs was the artist’s first one-person museum exhibition. The relationship between the artist and the center’s director and curators has continued over time, with Waters serving on the center’s International Advisory Council. He also served, together with Wex director Sherri Geldin, for nearly 10 years on the board of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Waters participated in the center’s 2008 Lambert Lecture during the exhibition Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms. He was among the artists depicted in the Wex’s 2012 exhibition, Annie Leibovitz, and his image was even more strikingly foregrounded in 2015’s Catherine Opie: Portraits and Landscapes. A portrait of Waters will also be featured in the other exhibition on view at the Wex this winter: Peter Hujar: Speed of Life.

“I’m really excited to have my show coming here right from The Baltimore Museum [in] my hometown,” Waters said during a recent visit to the Wex.

In Waters’s first artwork, Divine in Ecstasy (1992), he captured a moment of rapture from his favorite muse in his 1970 film Multiple Maniacs by pointing a still camera at a television screen. The piece forms a unique link between the rarefied world of contemporary art and the most relatable form of watching, and Waters has deftly traversed the spectrum of taste and cultural reference in his practice ever since. Drawing from his experiences with film and his fascination with celebrity, crime, religion, and popular culture, the artist subverts mainstream expectations of representation and entices viewers with his astute, provocative, and wickedly funny observations about society.

John Waters: Indecent Exposure is organized around themes of pop culture, the movie industry, the contemporary art world, the artist’s childhood and identity, and the transgressive power of images. In addition to photo assemblages that build new narratives from stills of existing movies, the exhibition features highlights such as a photographic installation in which Waters explores the auras and absurdities of famous films, their directors, and actors; a suite of photographs and sculpture that use humor to humanize dark moments in history from the Kennedy assassination to 9/11; and Kiddie Flamingos, a 2014 video work of children reading a G-rated version of Pink Flamingos, Waters’s notorious 1972 celebration of all things outsider and extreme.

Other bodies of work represented in the exhibition include Waters’s renegade versions of abstractions, still lives, and readymades and iconic cult film images that constitute a photographic reunion of Waters’s first collaborators, the actors and crew of Dreamland Productions. The exhibition also presents a selection of ephemera and some of Waters’s earliest films screened in a peep-show format.

Notes Wex director Sherri Geldin, “We’re thrilled to bring John Waters: Indecent Exposure to Wexner Center audiences, allowing them an in-depth look at all the ways—aside from his classic cult films—that John has both reveled in and cast a bemused eye on the perversities of human nature. That he manages to do so with such wit, compassion, and indulgence makes him among the most incisive yet generous of cultural commentators and a sheer delight to be around.”

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