John Waters, Pet, 2009, color photograph, 18 x 24".

John Waters, Pet, 2009, color photograph, 18 x 24".

John Waters

McClain Gallery

John Waters, Pet, 2009, color photograph, 18 x 24".

Would John Waters’s artwork be any good if it wasn’t by John Waters? That’s a hard question to answer, because it’s nearly impossible to separate the experience of looking at his art (featuring such Waters-esque things as celebrities, bodily fluids, B movies, and tabloids) from what one knows of his work as a director, author, and public figure. So the question becomes, Are judgments about artistic quality beside the point when dealing with a subject whose very success lies in the exaltation of bad taste?

I ask because many of the pieces featured in “Neurotic,” a sort of miniretrospective of works dating from 1993 to 2009, are essentially one-liners. Product Placement, 2009, for example, features movie stills rephotographed such that various household consumer items appear supported by the perfectly poised open hands of movie stars: Marlon Brando carries a tube of Colgate in Julius

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