Making His Pointillism


Cans Seurat, full view and mid-view detail, by Chris Jordan For an individual, opening a beverage can is a simple act that generally does not spark a great deal of reflection; but the same act, when considered on the national level, becomes a staggering statistic—an act of mass consumption so large it is difficult to conceptualize. Fostering this change of perspective is at the heart of Seattle-based artist Chris Jordan's Running the Numbers exhibition, currently on display at the UO's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. Here, Jordan renders a version of Georges Seurat's famous 1884 pointillist work A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, using images of 106,000 aluminum cans, the number used every thirty seconds in the United States.

"I think of [these works] as a kind of translation," Jordan says, "from the deadening language of statistics into a more universal visual language that might allow for more feeling." The twenty large-format works on display through April 10 invite viewers to consider such numbers as the 24,000 GMC Denali SUVs sold in six weeks, the 2.3 million Americans in prison, the 426,000 cell phones "retired" here every day, the two million plastic beverage bottles used in the United States every five minutes, and the $12.5 million spent every hour from 2003 to 2008 on the war in Iraq.