Nic Nicosa

          Docent Researcher: Susan Palmore


Birth date: 1951 Dallas, Texas

Current residence: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Education: University of North Texas BS Radio-TV Film1975



Major Shows/Galleries

Nicosa's first solo show in New York City was at Artist Space in 1982, followed by this work being included in the 1983 Whitney Biennial, and New Perspectives in American Art, 1983 Exxon National Exhibition at the Guggenheim. He has been included in several biennials including Documenta IX, Kassel, Germany in 1992, and a second Whitney Biennial in 2000. Nicosa has had over seventy solo exhibits and his work has been shown in galleries and museums throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.  In 1999 the Contemporary Arts Museum, in Houston, launched a retrospective of Nicosia's work; Nic Nicosa, Real Pictures 1979-1999, which traveled to several venues. Another major survey of his work was exhibited at CASA in Salamanca, Spain in 2003.     



Nothing in Nic Nicosia’s world is as it seems. Since the late 1970’s, the international photographer and multi-media artist has created work that contradicts appearances and challenges our perception of reality. Working from the ethos that the camera never lies, it simply records what it sees; Nicosia systematically bent perception by staging new realities for the camera. Whether depicting the peculiar isolation of American suburbia or the violence inherent in contemporary life, Nicosia’s humorous tableaux send up the desire and conflict that pervade our culture.


Working as a conceptual artist who uses a camera, Nicosa subsequently applied his cinematic mind-set for the making of a still image. He fabricates and stages situations and events to be photographed and is recognized as a pioneer of the staged photographic movement that came into prominence in the early 1980's. Nicosa also does portrait commissions.


Nicosia is among that generation of photographers whose images blurred the lines between the arts, challenging the documentary status of photography. Some artists manipulated the print, others manipulated the site. Nicosia surprised viewers with carefully constructed environments that moved between verite sincerity and the unapologetic taste for fantasy typical of much pop-cultural imagery. In those early works Nicosia applied colored paper to an environment, so that the alteration he photographed fluctuated between crafts-class illusion and straight-up reality. Later, Nicosa inserted people into his hand-drawn, cartoon like settings, and In 2008, Nicosa began drawing,combining drawing, painting and photography into an alliance that requires the viewer to sort out truth from illusion. Like Cindy Sherman, Jimmy De Sana, and Laurie Simmons, in staging his photographs, Nicosia assumed the role of director.


In addition to his photography and portrait commissions, Nicosa has also filmed, written, directed and produced 11 video shorts, digital shorts, and digital longs. He uses friends, family and professional models to fabricate an American suburbia, often hinging on some inexplicable act, gesture or facial expression surrounded by otherwise serene circumstances. These films have been shown in museums and galleries throughout the United States and Spain.


Contextual information

9 ½ Hours to Santa Fe Nic Nicos(i)a has traveled by car between Dallas and Santa Fe many times over the years, never becoming disenchanted or bored with the beauty of the mutable scenery he passes. Nicos(i)a’s habitual trek takes him from the manicured lawns of the Dallas suburbs to the stark, jagged edges of the desert. He also moves from the soft rolling hills of north Texas to the vast minimal landscapes of New Mexico. More than half of the drive follows Interstate 40, which parallels historic Route 66, considered one of the great American driving experiences, a symbol of America’s vibrant nomadic spirit as recorded by Robert Frank and Jack Kerouac, and the road taken to California by many families during the 1930s. 9½ hours to Santa Fe (2003-2004) documents one of Nicos(i)a’s solitary automobile trips. The entire drive was filmed in real time with three video cameras inside the car. One was mounted facing the front, with one to the rear, and an additional hand held camera was manipulated by the artist. At least one camera was running at all times, whether Nicosia was driving, filling the car up with gas, or taking a break to stretch or change the video tapes. The result is an unnervingly monotonous yet ultimately intriguing and personal document.”**

Subject Matter/ Themes:

Nicosa uses friends, family members, and professional models to fabricate an American suburbia, often focusing on some inexplicable act, gesture, or facial expression surrounded by otherwise serene circumstances

Anecdotal Information and Quotes

Nic Nicosia examines the underbelly of modern American life – the lust, violence, and humor that pervade many aspects of our society. Nicosia belongs to the generation of photographers that emerged in the 1970s questioning the authority of film and exposing the artificiality inherent in photography. In this way, Nicosia toys with our perceptions and shows us the disparities lying just below the surface of modern-day life. Disrupting the viewer’s expectations, Nicosia’s technically precise photographs explore the myth of perfection still alive in America’s suburbs. With startling humor, he takes the intimate, mundane backgrounds of the universally familiar: the bedroom, the kitchen, and the backyard, altering them with a layer of artifice that seems, sometimes, all too real. ***



1. "FotoFest 2010 Biennial". Road to No Where.

2.     ^ Fowler^, Jimmy. "Tricky Nic". Dallas Observer.


*Also known as Nic Nicosia

**Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts online catalogue

***Museum of Contemporary Photography online catalogue