Paul M. Cote’s sculptural paintings portray universes in states of perpetual expansion. Not only are his canvases and compositions constantly growing in size — recent series have reached twelve feet in width — but one also gets the sense that the materials are about to explode off the canvas. Each piece is thickly layered with acrylics and often embedded with objects like stones, masks, pieces of metal and shards of broken glass. This rich variety of surfaces grounds the stellar compositions in earthly textures, a reminder that whatever the subject of an individual piece, Cote’s works are very much of this world.
The Rhode Island-born and -based artist considers his works to be sculptures as much as paintings, and begins each piece very intuitively, dripping bold paints onto his canvas — some compositions evoke Jackson Pollock while others, with more symmetric patterns, are reminiscent of Damien Hirst’s spin paintings. Cote flirts with figuration, at times manipulating his copious quantities of acrylics to suggest planetary formations and other geometric forms evocative of outer space. Elsewhere he relies on the inherent tensions between his materials to give abstract compositions an additional element of surprise and mystery. In some works objects like carnivalesque masks, marbles or metal plates lurk beneath thickly dripped acrylics, emerging much to the surprise of the lingering viewer. Cote stages such encounters masterfully by layering paints and objects in varying ways that accentuate their sculptural features. Each spectacular acrylic topography is a world unto itself.