Chris Jordan was a lawyer, but don't hold that against him. He reinvented himself as an artist with a social conscious. Seattle-based Jordan creates large-scale photographic works that jolt viewers into thinking about burning issues such as global consumerism and excess.
On view at Santa Barbara's Museum of Natural History (through Sept. 11, 2009) is the travelling exhibition "Running the Numbers," his powerful series of work that Jordan describes on his website as a look at "contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics."
Statistics can be dry, but within a visual context numbers take on much more resonance. Jordan creates impactful tableaux for some eye-popping figures, such as: "2.3 million folded prison uniforms, equal to the number of Americans incarcerated in 2005."
At first glance, the massively-scaled digital photographs (most are at least 60" by 80") might appear to be either rather pleasing pictures (ie., a tribute to Seurat) or didatic, message-laden images (ie., a skull smoking). But upon closer inspection, the viewer sees that each work is comprised of seemingly countless miniscule images that evoke the larger image or pattern. On top of that, there is a message to ponder, taking the form of a brief museum label. Here is where the statistics come into play.
"Cans Seurat, 2007," 60 by 92 inches, bears the label: "Depicts 106,000 aluminum cans, the number used in the US every thirty seconds." The large-scale view is a soft pointillist-like rendition of Georges Seurat's (French, 1859-1891) masterpiece "Sunday on La Grande Jatte." The 106,000 cans are so tiny that the viewer is forced to move inches away from the picture to inspect.
Of course, garbage figures largely in Jordan's overall green theme. American waste to ponder: "Plastic Bottles, 2007," "depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes."
RUNNING THE NUMBERS TRAVELING EXHIBITION:
Curated by Chris Bruce at Washington State University Art Gallery.
Washington State University Museum of Art: Jan 14 - Apr 4, 2009:
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: May 15 - Sep 11, 2009
Pacific Science Center, Seattle: Sep, 2009 - Jan, 2010
Haverford College Art Gallery, Haverford, PA: Jan - Mar, 2010
Austin Museum of Art, Austin TX: May 22 - Aug 15, 2010
College of Charleston, SC: Fall 2010
Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, University of Oregon: Jan - Mar, 2011
Whatcom Museum of History and Art, Bellingham, WA: Apr- July 2011