curated by John Waters
Richard Bosman, Asger Carlsen, Peter Garfield, Bruce Gilden, Bill Lowenburg,
Sam McKinniss, Enrique Metinides, Arnold Odermatt, Brett Reichman,
Charlotte Neel Ritto, Raffael Waldner, John Waters
July 22 - August 11, 2016
Opening reception: Friday, July 22, 8 - 10 pm
Nine years after “Eliminate”, John Waters’ first curated exhibition at the Albert Merola Gallery, we are thrilled to announce his latest curatorial presentation with a group show, “Catastrophe.” “Sometimes when you’re feeling good on vacation, art can transform you by making you feel bad in a whole new and positive way. While the subject matter of this exhibition may be car accidents, suicides, drownings, mass murder, sexual depravity and physical ugliness, hopefully the viewer will walk away from “Catastrophe” with a certain happy distance from the horror depicted and magically be transformed into a visionary of cockeyed optimism. Count your blessings! Even if you lost your phone in the dunes, had your car towed, or got bit by a shark at the beach while visiting Provincetown, don’t you wish you had a photograph or painting of your mishap to remember it in a more creative way? None of your bad Cape Cod experiences will compare to the portraits of willfully damaged lives or the wretched landscapes of delirium depicted inside my show at the Albert Merola Gallery. Lighten up, art lovers! Remember, it could be a whole lot worse.” - John Waters In this exhibition there are a number of examples of obvious physical catastrophes, such as the famed Swiss photographer Arnold Odermatt’s depictions of car crashes, and a school bus collision photographed by Enrique Metinides, or as Waters refers to him, “the Mexican Weegee”. These two artists share an amazingly similar background - Odermatt worked for the police filming everyday life in the department, but he spent most of his time photographing the aftermaths of car crashes. His work was really revealed to the general public after he retired. In much the same way, Metinides worked as a photographer for La Prensa and other papers photographing car crashes or other disaster scenes. It was after his retirement that he began to get widespread interest and recognition for his work. Raffael Waldner is a younger generation Swiss photographer who is continuing this legacy by exploring that intersection between documentary and artistic creation. The airbag photographs in this exhibition show the evidence after a crash, but what really occurred? Catastrophe can lurk in many places and in many forms. Sam McKinniss’ large-scale painting of a shirtless boy looking down at the viewer is just that until one learns that it is a depiction of T.J.Lane, the mass murderer at Ohio’s Chardon High School in 2012. Described as “Just a very normal teenage boy”, he killed 3 students and critically wounded 3 others. His outrageous courtroom outbursts against the families of the victims scandalized the community. Another painting in the exhibition is by Charlotte Neel Ritto and shows an apparently benign scene of cottages in a tropical landscape. In actuality this painting depicts the landscape of one of the most notorious events of the 1970’s - the death by cyanide poisoning of more than 900 people - followers of the cult leader Jim Jones, head of the Peoples Temple, in Jonestown, Guyana. Richard Bosman is represented by a haunting image of Drowning Man from 1981. This large scale woodcut stands out for its imagery and quality, but also as a sign of the times- both then in the tumultuous early 1990’s, and now again in our own time. And an image of a drowning man in Provincetown always hits close to home. Asger Carlsen photos often show wildly distorted bodies, with oddly shaped masses in the midst of an everyday scene. They can be strange and mysterious and humorous all at the same time. In Carlsen’s words: “The true challenge is finding the balance between fiction and reality to create something so subtle it almost feels real.” Brett Reichman’s intensely detailed watercolor Simulation Masturbation could well be a catastrophe - His juxtaposition of naked gay men in various situations with everyday ‘collector’ furnishings are sexually charged and bizarrely off-putting yet seductive. All this plays with our attraction to the masterful technique that Reichman employs. What of a mobile home flying down out of the sky - like Dorothy’s house in the Wizard of Oz about to crash onto the Wicked Witch of the East? Peter Garfield’s mysterious yet playful photograph seems to be a nightmare in the making. In our American culture there is an embrace of catastrophe as entertainment. Bill Lowenburg’s seductive black and white photographs of the Demolition Derby celebrate the American love of cars and violence. Dangerous, hot and exciting: all the allure that a true spectacle needs to create. And Catastrophe can be an inner state - what the trials of life’s burdens can do to the human soul can be seen etched on people’s faces. This can result in a certain beauty that transcends the conventional ‘norms’. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the face of Lee-Ann, Milwaukee State Fair by Bruce Gilden. Gilden’s original and bizarre work pierces the outer layer of society and reveals the truth that lies within, whether it be on the streets of New York or Tokyo or Haiti or Detroit, or in this case at the Milwaukee State Fair. And in Tragedy we see the dark humor of John Waters at his finest - a sculpture that resembles a human wig with scalp attached and a big bow. This is John’s tribute to the spirit of film icon Jayne Mansfield who died in a horrible car crash in 1967 on the way to New Orleans. Waters said: “I love Jayne Mansfield way more than Marilyn Monroe.” citing her “unquenchable lust for any form of publicity” and stating that “Jayne remains the high priestess of lunatic glamour so it’s hard to imagine her ever wanting to rest in peace”. John Waters is an international icon. Film director, screenwriter, author, racconteur, and artist. Famous for films such as Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Serial Mom and Hairspray, he is the New York Times best selling author of Role Models and Carsick. His photographic artwork has been exhibited widely since 1995. He has spent summers in Provincetown since the 1960’s, and considers it a place where he gets much of his creative energy and inspiration. His first one person exhibition at the Albert Merola Gallery was in 1999.