Say Yes by Joseph Desler Costa

Say Yes by Joseph Desler Costa

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In Say Yes, lens-based artist Joseph Desler Costa reimagines possibilities of the photobook form within a visually melodic and lyrical meditation on ego, desire, and visual seduction.

Inspired by the persuasions of mass media and consumer culture, Costa folds commercialism inward while inviting viewers to consider how the aesthetics of visual advertising underlie contemporary life. Costa’s images form part-critique and part-embrace of such promises, and the artist himself often mimics the slick visual rhetorics of commercial photographs not to sell products, but to engage with notions of selfhood, nostalgic fantasy, and the hunger-pangs of desire that motivate the modern world.

Say Yes defies the traditional photobook format and utilizes physical cutouts to break holes through pages, subverting the authority of the solitary image and the influence it exerts over the viewer. The book is further orchestrated with flairs of typographic design and lines of text that exude ambiguous narrative as accompanying lyrics to a visual song. The resulting title spans language, image, design, and sculpture; an integrated aesthetic system that is charged in equal measures by autobiographical, fictional, and tongue-in-cheek appropriation of seductive commercial aesthetics.

In a time of both hyper-connectivity and hyper-isolation, what Say Yes beckons is a reflection of the world we’re forced to inhabit: a smoothed over, technologically-dominated psychic space in which the lines between who we are and what we buy have all but disappeared. Costa’s work reminds us that in the eyes of a world conducted by commerce and profit, we exist more as economic beings than individuals, and that such a world will use all the tools at its disposal to form the fantasies we buy into. Some of us will do so gladly, and perhaps we can take solace in the holes in ourselves that temporary fantasies can fill, even for just a little while.


Joseph Desler Costa is an American-born artist, photographer, and musician based between Brooklyn, NY and Milan, Italy. Through various disciplines that include photography, video, new media, music, and books, Costa’s work examines consumerist dreams, the powers of persuasion, and the origins of desire. Much of Costa’s recent work takes form as sculptural prints that evoke the machine-made and mass-produced, and follow the artist’s interest in both subverting and embracing the languages of commercial, fashion and product photography. Oftentimes autobiographical, his work examines the origins of fantasy, the intersections of consumerism and ego, and relationships between longing, selfhood, and purchasing power. 

Costa’s works have been exhibited in venues that include Aperture Foundation, The International Center of Photography, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Clamp Art, Foley Gallery, Microscope Gallery, and Transformer Station, among others, and his work has been published and written about widely in publications that include Artforum, Photograph Magazine, ArtNews, Dear Dave, Provokr, Der Grief, and Aperture Magazine, among others. In Costa’s commercial practice, he has produced commissions for clients that include New York Times, Vogue, Newsweek, Honda Motors, Nike, and Oakley, among others.