On Thursday 7 September 2017, Mary Boone Gallery will open at its Fifth Avenue location an exhibition of new paintings by Will Cotton. The attractive elsewhere promised in the child’s board game Candy Land continues to serve Will Cotton as a metaphor for adult desire, temptation, and indulgence.
The paintings in the current exhibition meld this imaginary world with reality, as Cotton has invited his studio models to participate in a collective fantasy by selecting their own costumes from among a number that he has created. These dresses are constructed from contemporary commercial packaging materials for cacao beans, candy, donuts, and sugar. The alluring bright colors and bold graphics of these familiar brands are as captivating and comforting as the frosting crowns and lollipop trimmings are implausible and exotic.
In the most recent painting Departure, Cotton alludes to an impending shift in the place his figures occupy. This model turns away from the viewer, one raised arm shielding her eyes from the glare of sun and cool blue water. Her outfit, made of cane sugar bags, blends in color and pattern with the deck on which she sits. She gazes toward an idling seaplane, the peppermint-striped letters of the carrier name mostly obscured but presumably Candyland Airways. The painting is an orchestration of layers of red and white, and the only thing edible is the model’s crown. A bag is packed, a plane awaits – perhaps the model is really reaching for her crown, ready to relinquish it and leave behind her realm where sweetness is the most prized attribute.