John Waters: Indecent Exposure

Edited by Kristen Hileman. Univ. of California, $50 (216p) ISBN 978-0-520-30047-7
This lopsided collection is dedicated to wonderful reproductions of photographs and ephemera created by film director John Waters, sourced from the beginning of his dedicated photographic practice in 1992 to the present; also included, and, less satisfying, are three essays from various scholars and critics and a lengthy interview with Waters. Made to accompany a Baltimore Museum of Art exhibition, the book evinces an uneasy dynamic between Waters’s work and the text. His photographs and art pieces are witty, unabashedly vulgar, and, as editor and museum curator Hileman writes on the first page of her essay, irreverent toward “good taste, marketability, and academic theory.” She and her fellow critics then go on to discuss the photographer in precisely those terms. Photographs of Justin Bieber manipulated to look like he’s had an excessive amount of plastic surgery, a collage of close-ups of Elizabeth Taylor’s hair and feet, and a vinyl doll of JFK clad in a white satin gown all stand in stark contrast to the self-conscious and self-serious criticism, which seems all too concerned with bestowing a patina of respectability and tastefulness on Waters’s work. The art itself is thought-provoking, but the texts, though well written, will add little to the appreciation of or discussion around Waters’s creative output. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/10/2018
Release date: 10/01/2018
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