Artists get typecast.

By the mid-1980s Dallas-based artist Nic Nicosia had received considerable attention for his staged, conceptual photographs — suburban tableaux that Nicosia cast and orchestrated like the film director he studied to be at the University of North Texas.

Nicosia’s technically precise photographs jabbed at the mythos of white, middle-class perfection — well-dressed nuclear families, tidy yards, nicely appointed kitchens. The layer of artifice that Nicosia wove into his tableaux emphasized the angst and artificiality of the all-American scenes.

But when in 1985 Nicosia proposed exhibiting some of his drawings along with his photographs for a show in New York, the gallerist told him no.

“People follow (your work) for a reason and then you make changes, or you do something different, and they just don’t accept that,” Nicosia said during a talk at the Contemporary Austin just before Christmas.


Nicosia was at the Austin museum for the December unveiling of “the twins,” a sandblasted stainless steel sculpture commissioned by the Contemporary Austin for its Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria.

The two dysmorphic, humanoid, and gentalia-less figures with eery smiles both point their left index fingers toward something unknown. At Laguna Gloria, the “the twins” now stands on the recently-cleared lower grounds maybe 40 feet from the shore’s edge of Lake Austin. The duo point in Westerly direction toward the water.

For the past decade Nicosia has been increasingly exploring sculpture although mostly in a smaller scale. At five feet tall, “the twins” is to date the largest realization of Nicosia’s sculpture-making and the textured, sandblasted gray surface gives the foundry-cast stainless work a handmade burnish, as if it were modeling clay.

Nic Nicosia, “the twins.” (detail), 2018. Stainless steel. 79 x 59 x 53 inches. Edition 1 of 3. Commissioned by The Contemporary Austin with funds provided by the Edward and Betty Marcus Foundation.  Installation view, The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria, Austin, Texas, 2018. All photos: Artwork © Nic Nicosia. Courtesy the artist and Erin Cluley Gallery, Dallas. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons.

The sculpture is something of a Jungian archetype — a symbol of basic emotions and drives, a primordial image of humankind. Childlike and age-old simultaneously, both anima and animus, “the twins” are a study in psychological introspection and also of unconscious projection.

And Nicosia is not interested in an over complicating the motives or inspiration for “the twins,” or his practice in general.

“I don’t consider myself a sculptor,” he said. “And I’ve never felt comfortable calling myself a photographer, either. I just like the general idea of an artist. I make things.”

“And my sculptures are all about emotions — pure, raw emotions. This (sculpture) is about how I feel.”

Nic Nicosia, the twins (detail), 2018. Stainless steel. Installation view, The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria, Austin, Texas, 2018.
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