Over the past two decades, the New York–based artist Brian Belott has created series that are almost improbably diverse—effervescently colored reverse-glass paintings, careful copies of children’s art, calculators adorned with rocks and shocking hits of colored sand, books harboring found photos. What unites them is a deep desire, and a rare ability, to thrill. They overload viewers with pleasure and gallantly challenge any accepted notion of taste, as when Belott embedded grimy socks and cheap plastic combs in those beautiful glass paintings, and splashed them with glitter. For a new group of paintings, he has mounted paper atop unwieldy balls of cotton batting so that the works bulge as if they’re pregnant or just a little overweight. Their surfaces are speckled with gorgeous dots, but dollar-store finds (like, say, shower heads) sprout from their sides, so that they are not only sensual and seductive but also funny and a touch abject—a delirious, contradictory zone where Belott’s work typically feels comfortably at home.
Even when Belott is pushing visual delectation into realms that are gaudy and kitsch, you can sense a tender care underpinning his art. Doing his own versions of children’s canvases, he selects ones that teem with invention, and he repaints them lovingly. They seem to be both faithful tributes and a means for him to get inspired to make his own work. Brief one-off books that he assembled from thousands of old photographs that he has picked at sales (garage, estate, stoop) have a tender, introverted, memorial tone, while other books—their thick pages outfitted with painted rocks—come right at you, exploding with energy. Belott also regularly stages out-of-left-field performances (often with collaborators), which can include Dada-quality nonsense vocals, madcap impressions, yodeling, or anything else that comes to mind. (There was that one time he lit his hair on fire.) He is relentless. Taking a step back and looking at his art as a whole, you get the sense of a pretty unusual thing: an artist building a whole alternate world from scratch, where calculators have become sumptuous ornamental objects, and children’s art is championed—a world, in other words, that is by turns joyous, psychedelic, and generous.