From Loring Knoblauch’s extensive review of Joseph Desler Costa’s exhibition “Soft Powers” for Collector Daily:
In a range of soft misty pastels, Costa starts with multiplied still life objects—tennis rackets, rainbows, roses, a white cat, a pack of Newport cigarettes, and even a tumbling bunch of McDonald’s french fry containers. These objects hover in the pristine white space of a commercial product shoot, or dissolve into a faded glow, where several sunsets, an orange tree, a high jumper, a “hi-tech” computer grid, and various body parts (a head, a chest) join the parade as fleeting memories or muted backdrops. While not succumbing to the most exaggerated stereotypes of the 80s, Costa still successfully evokes a style that confoundingly combines contemporary and dated visual references.
Costa then takes this set of symbols and motifs one step further by adding sculptural cutouts to the prints that reveal an additional image layer underneath. Using a laser cutter, he physically carves out various shapes and stenciled letters, many of which evoke playful 80s sticker aesthetics. Simple clouds, droplets, angel wings, splash marks, and thought bubbles interrupt and decorate the imagery, taking their colors from the pastel gradients underneath. Costa adds a huge orange sun to a sunset, water drops to his rainbows, a mist of clouds to his soaring high jumper, puffs of pink smoke to his cigarettes, and an unspoken babble of commentary to his french fry packaging. He then encourages these same cutout shapes to join the gallery installation, by affixing them directly to the walls around the prints, as if they had left the works and moved out to the nearby space. The overall effect both breaks down the typical plane of photography and extends the ideas beyond the frame.