Opening Reception: Friday, July 26, 6:00–9:00 p.m.
With 7:30 p.m. performance of special music commissioned from prominent Minnesota composers Mary Ellen Childs, Randall Davidson, Steve Heitzeg, Sarah Miller, and David Evan Thomas for OboeBass! in honor of Cy DeCosse by Penny and Bill George and the George Family Foundation
Artist Discussion with Weisman Art Museum Director and Chief Curator Lyndel King: Thursday, September 12, 1:00 p.m., Auditorium 150
The Many Faces of Cy DeCosse traces the highly successful advertising, publishing, and photography career of Cyrille “Cy” DeCosse ’52. His numerous creative enterprises, which have evolved over more than six decades, demonstrate a keen talent for recognizing significant technological and cultural shifts at the intersection of art, design, and media.
Over a hundred objects assembled for this exhibition chart the artistic and entrepreneurial ambitions and achievements of Cy DeCosse while providing unique insights into historical shifts in the overlapping fields of advertising, marketing, book publishing, and photography from the 1950s to the present. The exhibition includes examples of print advertisements, storyboards, package designs, and television commercials from DeCosse’s earliest ad agency years through the founding of Cy DeCosse, Inc. The company’s shift in focus to book publishing is represented by examples of their popular book series, which were sold as subscription books, a growing sales model in the 1970s and 80s. Photographs, awards, and even a check from Jimmy and Rosalind Carter for the purchase of one the first microwave cookbooks on the market attest to the phenomenal success of the company. Visitors to the show can also learn the story behind the company logo—an owl—and the company slogan Non paga dormire—“It doesn’t pay to sleep.”
DeCosse’s accomplishments as a fine art photographer occupy the largest footprint of the exhibition. His love of working up-close and intimately, which suited his art directing so well for decades, developed in tandem with his philosophy on photography. Whether it is the platinum prints featured in his earliest exhibition Images of Florence (1993), his innovative Off the Wall series (1998), the sensuous and chromatic fruit and flower still lifes (2002–2008), or his celebrated portfolio and ongoing series The Midnight Garden (2012–present), DeCosse has dedicated himself to finding the “hidden life in everyday objects” with superlative skill and care. The difficult, multiple steps required to produce these platinum-palladium, three-color gum dichromate, and polymer photogravure prints defy the quick, instant gratification of standard digital photography. And at the same time, the fruits, flowers, garden gates, and other objects convey a sense of timelessness—photographed without specificity in terms of time and place. They exist outside of the contemporary moment, which adds to their uniqueness and beauty.
The exhibition culminates with examples of DeCosse’s luminous egg tempera paintings and a selection of his cartoons and caricatures, another talent much in evidence in his early advertising work, such as his hilarious Mr. Bubbles and Malt-o-Meal commercials. This playful side of DeCosse is just one more “face” of an artist who continues to make the ordinary, extraordinary.