For his Window Works exhibition, Search Engine, Thomas Cummins features his largest photographic work to date. Printed on Duratran-photographic transparency film frequently used in the construction of light boxes and retail signage-and framed by Artpace’s Main Avenue window panes, the installation provides a panoramic view of the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis, Missouri, bisected by an interior shot of his own abandoned studio at the Blue Star Art Silos in San Antonio. He visited the bridge after an internet search for his name led him to the tragic story of another Thomas Cummins. (His trip in April 2012 coincided with the 21st anniversary of the tragedy.) With the image of his former studio embedded within the view of the St. Louis bridge, Search Engine merges the artist’s personal history with that of another man by the same name he never knew.
Fluorescent tubes installed behind Chain of Rocks (4/5/2012) backlight the four-panel photograph for viewers encountering the installation from Main Avenue. As a parallel piece, Silo #5, the central image of the artist’s former studio, is flipped-illuminated by daylight coming into the gallery. Each luminescent photograph is shot at a wide angle, allowing for the possibility of reliving the dramatic scenes with heightened clarity. Their large-scale format reveals tiny features of the landscape detected by the camera lens, such as the distant St. Louis Gateway Arch. Without characters, the images stop short of communicating a comprehensive narrative, hinting at myriad stories without disclosing all of the details.