Glenn Horowitz Bookseller is pleased to announce an exhibition of new works on paper by Will Cotton. These images, all produced this year, add to an expanding body of work detailing Cotton’s primary aesthetic obsession – the representation of pleasure. In the past Cotton produced lavish, mouth-watering images of candy fantasy lands- forests and caverns composed of chocolate, lollipops and ice cream – but has more recently begun to populate these utopian confectionary landscapes with gorgeous, eroticized female figures, as realistically represented as the impossible environments they seem so at home in. These lithe-limbed beauties appear almost as one with their delectable surroundings, as inviting and reassuring as the candy worlds they inhabit, as innocent, melting and available as taffy. Their untroubled countenances defy the viewer to find anything here that is less than simple, less than sweet. And perhaps because of this candid simplicity, the viewer is thrown back upon themselves and the question looms large – how free and uninhibited are our own desires?
The drawings in oil and varnish display a graceful, fluid style, an exuberant gestural freedom that belies the carefully honed craftsmanship of a hand and eye that, while deft, is never less than exacting in its requirements. Studies made from some of Cotton’s earlier works – Candy Forest (Study) from a painting of 2005 entitled Candy Stick Forest – denote an artist who is serious about understanding issues of draftsmanship and composition. Only with concentration and effort can the illusion of such easy spontaneity be brought about. The earthy monochrome pallet he uses in the drawings travels some way toward expressing a new gravity, a groundedness perhaps, which is absent in Cotton’s brightly hued, hyper-idealized painted works. Because of this color choice there is a haunting quality to some of these scenes which is less apparent in the paintings. Something of the Baroque spirit inhabits these pieces, recalling works by Fragonard and other 18th century painters, artists similarly given over to the celebration of life’s pleasures and appetites. And yet in our guilty age, the weight of history bearing down on us, these vistas onto carefree worlds of satiety and indulgence are never without a murmur of anxiety. Eden remains to mock the price we paid for our self-consciousness and the specter of this knowledge hangs over each of these compositions. Bitingly we recall the consequences of what it would be like to gorge ourselves on this sugar-coated wonderland, to fall for one of these spectral girls. Pleasure is fleeting, and all the sweeter for its transience.
Will Cotton was born in Melrose, Massachusetts. His work has been displayed in numerous group and one-person shows throughout the U.S. and Europe. Presently he lives and works in New York City.