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BY SCOTT STIFFLER | Currently living in Manila, Filipino photographer Niccolo Cosme says that although his city was spared from the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, “We started to feel its impact day by day. We have never seen anything of this magnitude, where communities, towns and provinces were washed out. We found ourselves in volunteer work every night, assisting in relief operations, at the airbase where the refugees are flown from the typhoon-affected areas. It felt like we were at war. Work, family, the whole Philippines is affected by this event.”
When Haiyan hit just over a week before Cosme was set to make his NYC debut as a solo artist, November 20’s opening night reception at Tally Beck Contemporary was hastily reorganized as a benefit. All of the usual festivities took place, but the evening’s centerpiece was an auction of artwork by Cosme and fellow Filipino artist Lenore Lim — which raised $900 for Red Cross relief efforts.
Donations will be accepted at two upcoming talks directly related to the subject matter covered in Cosme’s solo exhibition. On December 11, Tally Beck (whose gallery specializes in Asian contemporary art) discusses Cosme’s use of religious imagery in “The Art of Ecstasy: The Legacy of Sexuality in Counter-Reformation Religious Art.” On December 17, Tally Beck Contemporary will present “Family Tree: Niccolo Cosme and the Photo Personification” — a lecture by NYU’s Anne Hoy (who teaches art history). Both events begin with a reception at 6pm, followed by the talk at 7:30pm.
As for the basis of these talks, Cosme’s “The Altar Boy” is comprised of 16 large-scale “personification photographs” drawn from the artist’s background as a gay man growing up in the intensely Catholic culture of the Philippines. Inspired by the manner in which Christian imagery was adjusted to the context of different cultures, Cosme uses live models to stage photographs whose hyper-realism, says Beck, “recalls the surrealism of Pierre et Gilles” while referencing ecstatic and hagiographical imagery — Reformation-era religious painting and sculpture “that focused on emotionally charged images of saints. These works also blurred the lines between sexual and spiritual ecstasy, and we see this ambiguity in Cosme’s personified photographs.”
THE ALTAR BOY: NICCOLO COSME’S SOLO EXHIBITION
Through December 22
At Tally Beck Contemporary
42 Rivington St. (btw. Eldridge & Forsyth Sts.)
Gallery Hours: Tues.-Sun., 12-6pm