Shout Magazine

Mark Kostabi on William Cotton

When I first saw William Cotton’s stand-out paintings in a group show at Exit Art a few years ago, I immediately wanted to meet the artist. A few days later, I visited his studio, where I was pleasantly surrounded by his unique orchestrations of current creative issues—masterfully painted, realistic images of toys emerging from a catalog of abstract glazes, scrapings, and biomorphic mush. His work reminded me of works by 10 different other well-known artists who all pale in comparison in Cotton.

Over the past few years, Cotton’s work has become more decisive, more streamlined and hip. This artist might depict, for example, a big pink realistically painted heroic Mr. Bubble or a blob of green metaphysical goop. This completely original and startling body of paintings portray lower income housing which, upon closer examination, reveal themselves as luscious explorations of Candyland, where walls are made of ginger bread, roofs are covered with candies, and trees are made of ice cream and lollipops. Childhood imagery and crude reality are cleverly merged, exploring themes like innocence and corruption, dreams and reality, childhood and adulthood. Cotton perhaps seems to be suggesting that in our overpackaged society we all live in candy-coated shacks.

December 1998