The dark 24-by-30-inch photographs lining the walls at Andrew Rafacz seemed scattered with stars. But a close look revealed that each shows, in fact, a constellation of bugs: that supernova might be a moth, and the Milky Way a mass of gnats. The images—so sharp that I imagined the insects had been pressed under glass—are in fact scans, the gallery press release disclosed. Each records a day’s accumulation of creatures that met their ends on a piece of Plexiglas attached to the front of Greg Stimac’s car as he drove cross country last year.
This idea might seem to be no more than a gimmick, lacking an artist’s compositional sense or evidence of his hand, and creditable mostly for planning, diligence and precision. But the pictures are persuasively beautiful. In a formal sense, the compositions can be described as allover, and on that basis be considered abstractions. In a scientific sense, randomness plays out in this simple setup, though questions arise. How is patterning affected by the aerodynamics of the car’s grille and Stimac’s placement of the Plexi plate in the airflow? (The prints could be studied for subtle repeats and groupings.) Do the bugs vary according to latitude or altitude or weather conditions?
Stimac’s project relates to other interactions with nature, recalling, for example, works by artists (such as Dove Bradshaw) who leave metal plates outdoors, where atmospheric conditions act upon them. Or, given that Stimac created his works while traveling, one might think of Richard Long documenting his journeys in landscape photos—his “lines drawn by walking”—or Roger Ackling recording weather and time in his “sun drawings.”
Stimac has given himself fewer options than Long and Ackling enjoy. Once he has set his conditions, nature and chance do the composing, and he can only decide what not to scan or what not to exhibit. Still, I responded to the sparseness or concentration of elements as well as the subjects’ size. These evocative starlike accidents make a satisfying single body of work. They relate to Stimac’s earlier subject-specific series, such as people firing guns or mowing lawns, as well as his other travel-derived imagery. All are typologies of activities. The others offer landscapes and human interactions, but the far more austere insect scans show that Stimac can find visual interest in almost anything—and almost nothing.
Photo: Greg Stimac: Untitled (Santa Fe to Billings), 2009, inkjet print, 25 by 31 inches; at Andrew Rafacz.