Andrew Cotton uses elements of art history, art movements, and signature aesthetics in his contemporary portraits that give us an unusual hybrid model of unsymmetrical duality. His Pop Iconology allows us to reference a culture in such a way that visual familiarity, recognition, and acceptance is reinforced through relatable imagery. From splatter-painted Pollock portraits to Graffiti-style Basquiat busts, Cotton separates his subject in two. Part anatomically correct portraiture juxtaposed with the preferred visual nomenclature of such identity, we see a bold and beautiful split personality. Cotton makes the outward appearance of his subjects and the inner, conceptual appearance exist simultaneously.
Originally from North London, Cotton received his art education at the prestigious Central St. Martins School of Art in Holborn, London. His work is now found in galleries throughout the US, luxury hotels, corporate headquarters, and private residences.
Although there is an edgy style that spans his repertoire of contemporary portraits, urban landscapes, and abstract explorations, there is also a certain authenticity that dates back generations. Cotton’s father and grandfather owned a printing company in East London doing printing and design work for large retail and clothing stores. Cotton grew up seeing first-hand the techniques of block, offset, silkscreen, and commercial printing processes and pulls direct inspiration from those early formative years through his own use of wheat pasting, paper collage, and large-scale xerox prints.
Being a teenager in East London during the graffiti boom, Cotton was immediately drawn to the pioneers of the UK graffiti scene. But, wanting to develop his career as an international artist, he found himself residing in New York City at the early age of 24. Here he found inspiration in the DIY aesthetic of the street art market.
“I grew up in around East London, around that stuff [graffiti]. I knew Banksy…and that whole branding, guerilla marketing campaign. You know, they did a phenomenal job. And I already thought at that time the graffiti scene in New York was like Disney World. You know, the real action was happening in Brooklyn”, he explains.
Not wanting to potentially risk arrest and sacrifice his visa in solely being a graffiti artist in New York, he set up his art studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn. He was drawn more to a practical and economic approach to selling his art in New York than craving the public exposure and street credibility of the over-hyped graffiti scene.
Cotton’s signature raw aesthetic eventually gained notoriety in the small art circles of East Hampton, boosting his artworld presence. Working in contemporary portraiture, abstract painting and text driven proses, his visual vocabulary expanded.
Currently, his artwork has been represented by over five contemporary galleries in the US and was showcased in Art Wynwood.
One of the highlights of new artwork at New River Fine Art is a painting titled, “Split Sculpture.”
In “Split Sculpture”, we find Andrew Cotton taking a more authentic approach to his personified dualities. We begin to see a more mature and developed visual language that requires more of us as a viewer, asking us questions about today’s complex economic, financial, and social infrastructures.
Cotton’s playful ploy examines the contradictions we all face in the current health-focused global climate.
Each portrait in “Split Sculpture” is strategically modified. The statues are frozen in time. Their gazes, emotions, and mannerisms are deliberately suppressed. This contemporary and visual ploy of “censorship” is a direct and intentional artistic approach to the erroneous inconsistencies bombarding us in today’s 24-hour news cycle.
“We are told to stay home, don't stay home…It’s safe to travel… it's not safe to travel…We are living in a time where you want to have freedom of expression, but we are also living in a time where everybody has to self-censor. We are being turned into these still objects where we're not meant to move, we're not meant to be,” Cotton explains.
On the left, the soulful statue of antiquity is adorned with the artists’ Basquiat inspired, abstract expressionistic gestures covering the mouth, like a modern-day pandemic mask.
“Censor the voice.”
Silence the opinions, discussion, and ideas.
The Roman bust on the right is stricken with Picasso-esque modifications over the eyes, ears, and hair, juxtaposing classical with modern.
“Confuse the head…and conceal the facts.”
Distort reality with media monopolies allowing us to see what they want us to see. With “Split Sculpture”, Cotton delivers a dyad of deliberate and dynamic distortions by cementing his voice in the mixed media of wheat paste, collage, paint, and paper.