“John Waters: Pope of Trash” will explore his process, themes, and movie-making approach, while tracing the grotesque, daring, tacky, hilarious, and salacious elements that recur throughout Waters’ 60-year career of filmmaking. The exhibit also will show how Waters, who identifies as gay and his movies have redefined independent cinema.
“This is an exciting moment to reflect on John’s career,” associate curator Dara Jaffe told Wallpaper.com. “Many of the socio-economic themes from his films, like class, taste and propriety, have undergone significant social transformation over the last several decades. A striking example is ‘Pink Flamingos,’ which faced bans in multiple countries and carried an X rating by the MPAA upon its release. In 2021, the Library of Congress inducted it into its National Film Registry.”
The John Waters exhibit will open Sunday and close Aug. 4, 2024.
Reservations are encouraged. General admission tickets range from $15 to $25.
The exhibit incorporates several parts.
- Visitors will enter the exhibit through an introductory gallery featuring an abstract church setting that winks at several aspects of Waters’ personal history and filmmaking.
- A gallery exploring his early life and works includes “Hag in a Black Leather Jacket” (1964) — Waters’ first film, an 8mm short made when he was 17 years old — “Roman Candles” (1967), and “Eat Your Makeup” (1968).
- At the center of the John Waters exhibit is an experiential gallery that highlights the recurring elements of music and dance in Waters’ films.
- Several feature films spanning from 1969 to 2004 are examined through handwritten scripts, costumes, props, posters, correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs, and film clips. Those films include “Mondo Trasho,” “Multiple Maniacs,” “Pink Flamingos,” “Female Trouble,” “Desperate Living,” “Polyester,” “Hairspray,” “Cry-Baby,” “Serial Mom,” “Pecker,” “Cecil B. Demented,” and “A Dirty Shame.”
- The exhibit concludes with a gallery dedicated to Waters’ cult status, featuring fan art, and other nods to the filmmaker’s career.
A film-series retrospective starts on Sunday with “Eat Your Makeup” and “Serial Mom.” Waters will appear in-person at both films.
The screenings will run through October and include “Polyester,” “Pink Flamingos,” “Hairspray,” among others.
An adjacent gallery installation, “Outside the Mainstream” will spotlight other radically independent filmmakers who identify as gay and also champion unconventional modes of film production and distribution, including Kenneth Anger, Jack Smith, Andy Warhol, Gregg Araki, and Todd Haynes.
The gallery focuses on examples from the American avant-garde, underground film, and New Queer Cinema movements.