The artist named Paul M. Cote, who prefers to sign his paintings with and be known by the pseudonym of Cody, refers to his creative project as"topographical, real/surreal paintings." And indeed that title seemed apt for his thickly textured compositions in his recent Chelsea solo exhibition, which imbues often ethereal and metaphysical subjects with a physical presence verging on the sculptural.
Like Jackson Pollock before him, Cody prefers to work with the canvas on the ground or the floor of his studio on a large scale. Like the great abstract expressionist, too, his approach is actively physical, with paint applied sans plan, spontaneously, in layer after layer, often over lengthy periods of time. His thickly encrusted surfaces, like those of Larry Poons, take on great weight and depth. The composition evolves in the act of painting, and although they could be perceived at first glance as abstract, they are actually inspired by the artist's lifelong interest in science fiction and the universe.
Often the viewer is tipped off to this by titles such as "Solar," "Planet Gaseous," or "Milky Way," and knowing Cody's intent makes the narrative aspect of his painting immediately evident to the naked eye. Although his style is unique, perhaps his closest artistic relative is the Belgian painter, Octave Landuyt, another artist whose work probes the "experienced" aspect of inanimate nature through the working and reworking of what that artist calls "essential surfaces," and creating what critic Emily Genauer once referred to as "not technical fireworks but a symbolic skin containing the mysteries of life and death."
Certainly Cody appears to achieve something similar in his imposing, luminous canvases, which go far beyond a scientific, diagrammatic approach to the galaxies to address the ineffable mystery of the cosmos themselves, with their freely floating forms and radiant auras, as seen in the aforementioned "Solar," where golden orbs appear to emit light that envelopes the viewer. Equally dynamic is "Liquos," in which a monolithic ovoid central form appears within a dark cosmic space surrounded by a smoky halo of gaseous antimatter made paradoxically palpable in thick pigment. In much the same manner that one can hear a ghostly semblance to the sea's roar in a sea shell, one can feel its fearsome force by proxy in this evocative shape with its eddies of cerulean blue whirling within its great yawning galactic yap.
In another acrylic on canvas called "Protection," Cody Reveals a gift for biomorphic form akin to that of the abstract expressionist William Baziotes with a composition where vividly golden tendril-like shapes resembling wiggling undersea flora are juxtaposed with planetary orbs as colorful as jugglers balls orbiting amid an atmospheric purple haze. Another especially colorful composition in which several smaller shapes surround a central solar shape emitting an axle-like configuration of white rays like the great wheel of the universe is called "Heart Attack." This might seem incongruous if not for the artist's own statement that each of his paintings has at least four or five different meanings.
Such subjective complexity, come to think of it, is just what one would expect of a painter as ambitious as Cody, the breadth and scope of whose work takes in vast imaginative expanses. Indeed, as other intriguing titles such as "Hell," "Wormhole," and "Un Invicto Nuovo" make clear, we are dealing here with an artist whose horizons appear virtually unlimited.
- Maurice Taplinger