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The White Paintings: Eduardo Costa and John Perreault

The White Paintings: Solid Paintings by Costa, Toothpaste Paintings by Perreault from April 29 through May 29, 1999 @ The Work Space, 96 Spring Street, 8th Floor, (212) 219-2790

Eduardo Costa, Painting of a Pair of Scott Burton Side Tables (one shown), acrylic paint, 1995-97.

Appearances can be deceiving, and subtle artifice characterizes this new work by Eduardo Costa and John Perreault. Costa has produced three-dimensional objects by painting layer upon layer of acrylic paint. His solid paintings depict subject matter ranging from portraiture (heads without shoulders) to flowers, fruit, vegetables, textiles, toilet paper, and a table by Scott Burton. What seem to be sculptural objects by virtue of their corporeal nature are in fact paintings. They have a singular luminosity and weightiness that results from dense concentrations of pigment. Costa eliminates the picture plane and explores the true nature of paint through imagery that is associated with the still life tradition. Paint masquerades as flowers, vases, fruit, and vegetables in a refreshingly new way. Even Cubism failed to paint around objects in such a convincing manner.

John Perreault, untitled, 2000, Toothpaste, 20 x 16 inches, courtesy Marquee Projects.

Unlike Costa, who has liberated paint from canvas, John Perreault liberates the canvas from paint by applying toothpaste in its stead. European critics railed again Coca colonialisme in the art world, declaring that “Americans sell paintings as if they were toothpaste.” Perreault obliges these detractors of American art by exhibiting fourteen canvases that are replete with allusions to modern painting. The viewer might easily mistake these works for oil on canvas, as different brands of toothpaste dry to a surprising gamut of whites. Sensuous use of impasto or paint squeezed directly from the tube is part of the modernist myth, from Van Gogh on down, and numerous works by Pereault privilege a sensual, heavy application of toothpaste. Apart from the irony of Pereault’s work, it shares an interesting affinity with Fluxus and Arte povera. He transforms a commonplace material into the locus of an aesthetic experience that is heightened by its impermanence.

© Daniel Rothbart, 2000.

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