Benjamin Cottam, in his first New York solo show, inverted the common art-crit assumption that all art has some essential relationship to death and/or nostalgia. In contrast to classical portraiture, rather than capture moments or images in time, Cottam's paintings— at first glance black monoliths—sever presumed sentimentality. Cottam's oils gain more from the future than the past; it is by studied looking that the forms of Cottam's works take shape. Only gradually are foregrounds, on the cusp of perception, realized/invented by the viewer. While Cottam's glazes seem significant of a scrim representing the dark end that awaits us, they are in fact barriers to the temptation of assumption, and ultimately, death itself.
Text by John Reed