Jason Salavon

Peter Miller Gallery

IT MIGHT NOT SEEM that Internet porn bears any similarity to houses for sale in Orange County, or that American-made shoes have anything in common with the top-grossing movies in history. But these and other categories are equally rich fodder for Jason Salavon's analysis. He constructs computer software that reformats data—whatever their origin or kind—into intriguing patterns. Sometimes he superimposes scores of related images, digitally layering them so that ultimately only the amorphous average remains. In other instances he creates complex and multidimensional charts, giving data a pictorial profile far removed from their mundane sources. There is something actuarial about his procedure, a logic or ethic that can relentlessly shuffle input until it becomes nearly mush. Nearly, but not completely; when Salavon's source material is visual, certain core patterns emerge, revealing structural tendencies in how we compose images, and how we live our lives.

Salavon approaches his subject matter with some passivity. The five pieces charting the production of shoes in various categories (“Total slippers,” 'Women's medium heel,“ ”Men's other than work," etc.) in the US between 1960 and 1998 are deadpan demonstrations that any corpus of data can yield a compelling pattern. Hopeless as industry surveys, these works are marked by the accelerated tempos of Salavon's multicolored graphology, a kind of digital reductio ad absurdum.

In 121 Homes for Sale, LA/Orange County, 2001, Salavon superimposes recent real-estate photos of houses in the $250,000–$350,000 range: The result is a gray horizontal fog (the ghost of the houses themselves) above a stratum of a lighter gray (121 layers of California street); a hint of green suggests bushes. The image indicates that these are mostly one-story ranch houses—a generalization that is firmly rooted in the specific, as well as an averaging that inevitably tracks the particular toward the generic. Projects assessing homes for sale in Chicago and New York had similar results. In Blowjobs, 2001, Salavon superimposes quite different images: seventy-six clips of fellatio (like seventy-six trombones, get it?) taken directly from the Internet. What seems a misty haze starts to coalesce around a cylindrical shape at the left and some suggestion of an aperture meeting it toward the right. Eerie and disarming, the work takes exposed and manufactured intimacy and makes it nearly invisible.

Salavon's forays into mass culture include two pieces examining Hollywood blockbusters. In The Top Grossing Film of All Time, 1x1, 2001, Salavon created a program to reduce each frame from the 1997 film Titanic to its predominant color, then shrink the results into tiny rectangles and arrange them in chronological order in hundreds of rows. The film can be followed by means of its chromatic emphases, if you're familiar with the plot: Sunny blue and tan give way to flashes of white (shots of the iceberg?) and then relentless rows of purple and black. Titanic also makes an appearance in the large video projection The Top 25 Grossing Films of All Time, 2x2, 2001. (Salavon did not adjust the box-office receipts for inflation, so the films are all of recent vintage.) Here each frame is divided into quadrants, the colors of which are averaged out, and then all the films are simultaneously projected in a grid of 100 flashing rectangles. All twenty-five sound tracks also played at once, resulting in a kind of assertive babble. As the films vary in length, from 194 minutes (Titanic, Number 1) to 88 minutes (The Lion King, Number 6), nearly all the quadrants go blank (and silent) before the piece ends, at 140 minutes. Salavon's uncritical investigation of box-office culture is oddly complicit with the spectacle of well-oiled mass entertainment. It is also time-specific, as new films will soon push these from their positions. Like much statistical analysis, the piece is a willing prisoner of the data it rearticulates, offering new and intriguing profiles of what are fundamentally the same old faces.

James Yood