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Nasher Public and Katy Trail Art: Nic Nicosia

Nasher Sculpture Center

Best known for his work in photography and film, Nicosia initially came to international prominence as part of the Pictures Generation, artists who came of age in the 1970s and whose work was suffused with images from popular culture that also included figures such as Richard Prince, Laurie Simmons, and Cindy Sherman. Although he often built sets and props for his elaborately staged photographs, Nicosia only began to make sculptures around 2009–10. Early experiments in paper clay and hydrocal included a group of eccentric personages reminiscent of works by Max Ernst, whimsical wire portraits harkening back to the early work of Alexander Calder, and anonymous figures taking on various poses and personas. Many of these were made independently of his photography, but they soon began to populate the models for his staged photographs and, more recently, real domestic interiors, resulting in images that confound reality and artifice.

The twins marks the beginning of Nicosia’s engagement with foundries and larger cast sculptures.  A commission from The Austin Contemporary provided Nicosia with the opportunity to enlarge and cast in stainless steel two small, paper clay and hydrocal figures, on which the twins are based. Like much of the artist’s work in a variety of media, this sculpture is simultaneously familiar and surreal, whimsical and unsettling. The figures are generic, human-like, but with no overt indications of gender. Although they are roughly the same size, the twins exhibit a number of distinctions: slight differences in their facial features, stances, and poses distinguish one from the other. Each raises its left hand and, in the configuration the artist determined for the installation on the Katy Trail, points toward the other. The gesture is also ambiguous and can be interpreted in a variety of ways: a sign of recognition, accusatory, or merely indicative. Their expressions—either stoic or bemused, but equally inscrutable with eyes closed or perhaps barely open—further complicate the reading of the gesture and the relationship between the two.  Encountering the figures on the Katy Trail makes them seem like alien avatars in an alternate reality, suggesting opposite directions in a choose-your-own-adventure game.

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