ARTIST SERIES

“Dream Date” is as much about dreams as it is about dates. Costa’s highly constructed photographs picture his anxieties and desires as he reconciles a longing for symbols from his youth with the more pervasive images that now occupy his field of view. The resulting works—part autobiographical, part fiction—are a materialization of memories and fantasies warped not only by the passage of time but also by a steady consumption of media imagery.

Costa’s interest in the visual language of desire is rooted in his early memories growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh in the late 1980s and 1990s. His first influences were shiny pop culture images from television, fashion magazines, and advertisements. For the generation who grew up straddling the digital divide, before the ubiquity of the internet, this was a shared experience. Mainstream material culture, as well as album art, MTV, and graphic novels, seemed to offer a path to transcendence. Not equipped to unpack the messages we were receiving, these images informed our sense of self and understanding of the world. Since then, technology has advanced, weakening and dulling our imaginations, which are now saturated with on-demand images on the multitude of screens that surround us.

Costa’s work is indebted to fellow Pittsburgh native Andy Warhol, who challenged the concept of a unique work of art and explored the idea that making art was a form of consumer production. Costa’s own exhaustive studio practice includes staging and photographing scenes, making prints, and re-photographing these prints until forms begin to overlap, collapse, and degrade. His final works are printed on stacked aluminum panels, forming three-dimensionally layered pictorial constructions.

The background images—colored gradients resembling a sunset—are visible through graphic symbols and shapes laser-cut in the foreground images. The resulting hyper-stylized and machine-made aesthetic of the work questions the illusions of autonomy offered by consumerism while embracing its trappings. By mixing multiple-exposures with seductive images of beauty and luxury, Costa is reclaiming his memories even as he tailors them to the commercialized world around him. “Dream Date” is a visual exploration of how the forces of technology and commerce shape our desires, perceptions, and ultimately, our imaginations.

Work by Joseph Desler Costa

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