"A picture speaks louder than words," according to the old saying and there's no better proof of that than the current exhibit at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles.
I'm a great fan of Seattle photographer Chris Jordan who creates huge ink-jet images of massive quantities of everyday objects that art critic Christopher Knight suggested might be called "Still Lifes on Steroids." Jordan's photos are exhibited along with statistics connecting them to our penchant for over-consumption and the challenges we face to be socially responsible.
For example, the piece "Building Blocks, 2007" is 16 feet tall x 32 feet wide in eighteen square panels, each 62" x 62," and depicts nine million wooden building blocks, representing the number of children without health insurance in 2007. The piece "Toothpicks, 2007" is 60" x 99" and shows 8 million toothpicks, representing the number of trees harvested every month to make paper for mail order catalogues.
Viewed from a distance, the photographs make stunningly beautiful abstract works of art; up close, the effect is just as stunning as we're forced to contemplate the real-world information they convey.
Jordan describes "Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait," the title of this recent series, as follows:
"This new series looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 426,000 cell phones retired every day. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. My underlying desire is to affirm and sanctify the crucial role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming."
The exhibit continues through October 20th. If you're in the Los Angeles area, I highly recommend it; if you're unable to see the work in person, Jordan's website does a fine job of conveying his message.
© 2007 Cynthia Friedlob