HIGH ART: New frontiers for Western contemporary art

By on April 9, 2013

JACKSON HOLE, WYO –  The past week presented a fruitful trifecta of art events all converging around a theme of new frontiers in Western and contemporary art. Semi-coordinated by a few art leaders in Jackson, including Meg Daly of Culture Front and ITP members Thomas Macker, Andy Kincaid and Ben Carlson, and Travis Walker, these events synthesized the exciting potential of defining Jackson as a Western depot of contemporary art.

In one event, Walker, of Teton Art Lab, was asked by the National Endowment for the Arts to speak about creating and funding contemporary arts organizations in small towns.

In another, artists sought to hash out both the misnomers and insights of the embodied artist experience in the Western landscape through a dialogue and artist presentations at Culture Front.

Capping these events is the current show at ITP, “Lost Spike,” by artist Greg Stimac. Stimac, originally from Chicago and currently working toward his MFA at Stanford, brings a passionate and critical dialogue to his work that I found to be an invigorating energy that lit up the often quiet and shadowed academic conversation in this town. I met with Stimac the Friday before his opening to chat about his exhibition, landscape, and the state of this “new frontier.”

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Stimac is a first-generation American of Croatian descent who has spent many hours in the car subjecting himself to the modern nomadic experience. While Stimac handles subject matters of nostalgia using objects such as cars, gas stations and the historical golden spike in his photographs and videos, he skirts issues of longing and dives straight into Americana iconography, tackling relationships between travel, masculinity and displacement.

Stimac is a creative contemporary archeologist, who sets up his photographs and videos around the notion of collecting artifacts and the act of removing information rather than romanticizing it. This form of abstraction and minimalism builds a furtive beauty into his compositions. Perhaps most contextually poignant is his video “Old Faithful Inversion 2012.” On first glance the image is allusive: a rosy orange sky highlights a giant plume of dark grey smoke that rises from a stark ashen ground. As the film winds through the projector a soft, warm hum moves the image to no conclusion or shift.

The information in this loop opens itself up within the title, upon realizing this is our own geyser that has been digitally altered and transferred to film creating a haunting and somewhat mundane cycle of the world-famous attraction.

Stimac asks us to go back in time, to when a nostalgic glow emits from the electric projector. But to what end? We are left looking into the abyss of an endless, unchanging landscape where instead of preservation we are left with purgatory.

“Lost Spike” will be on display at ITP until May 1.


About Abbie Miller

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