“Nic Nicosia: Real Pictures 1979–1999”

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

You travel through Nic Nicosia’s retrospective like a voyeur through a neighborhood, peering into window after window for illicit kicks. You catch a glimpse—brief, partial, even hazy. At times you do a double take, unsure what you just saw. Nicosia’s grasp of cloaked emotions and stalled dreams is so convincing, you can’t help but feel you’re privy to things you weren’t meant to see. Here is an artist who operates as much from his gut as from his head, and who actually says something about white middle-class America. Nicosia gauges the depths of suburban experience, as critic Dave Hickey writes in the catalogue, “with a cold eye and a warm heart. . . . He has nailed it, arranged it, interpreted it, and redeemed it.”

But like an unreachable itch, Nicosia’s photographs and films also frustrate; meanings suggest themselves but remain elusive, lending his most powerful images the authority of

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