On view at Ronchini Gallery in London is the first UK solo exhibition of work by American artist Will Cotton, a new series of large scale oil-on-linen paintings depicting landscapes of sweets, pastries, ice cream, and pinup models.
Throughout much of his work, Cotton uses food, notably indulgent sweets as a symbol of desire and pleasure, of perfection and indulgence. Pink clouds of cotton candy fill an invented sky; melting ice cream becomes an ocean where a nude woman rides a sea creature that looks like it could also be made of ice cream; and in a third work, Persistence of Desire 3, a mixture of oil paint and wax was applied to a canvas using a pastry bag and other tools used for cake decoration. The aesthetic embraces over-the-top sweetness to the point of repulsion, and draws inspiration from formal portraiture, making many references to 18th century European masterpieces as well as to American mid-century pinup paintings. At once the images are pure, creamy, and dreamlike, while on the other hand present the image of a “flawed utopia” – saccharine and gluttonous, not to mention the inability to be satiated by mere image. Recently, Cotton served as the artistic director for the California Gurls music video for pop singer Katy Perry, which borrowed heavily from his candy obsessions for the video’s viral content.
Cotton works by building maquettes in his New York studio, ranging from scenery placed on table tops to life sized sets with live models, dressed in costumes made of candy and sweet pastries. He then paints these dioramas down to the smallest detail, so that the works are ultra realistic and even tactile. The fetishization of his work ultimately extends out into the materiality of the subject, savoring in the dense layers and textures of cotton candy and cookies, and recreating them with a fanatic attention to detail.
The current exhibition at Ronchini Gallery in London will continue through August 9th.
Will Cotton, Persistence of Desire 3 (Detail) (2014)
— E. Baker
Exhibition Page [Ronchini Gallery]