Art Culture

Remarkable Chris Jordan Running the Numbers: The Art of the Statistic 2021

| September 14, 2021 | 0 Comments
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Chris Jordan, a Seattle based visual artist, has created an exciting new exhibit entitled “Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait.” It can be viewed from September 8 to October 20 at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery located in Los Angeles, California.

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan, the man behind previous works such as “In Katrina’s Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster” and “Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption,” has infused the new work with his characteristic blending of aesthetic beauty and sociopolitical commentary.

The exhibit features seventeen original pieces, each of which illustrates a staggering social or environmental statistic. His piece entitled “Building Blocks,” for example, (measuring 16 feet tall and 32 feet wide) depicts a single children’s building block. But that building block happens to be composed of nine million microscopically smaller building blocks, each block representing one child in America who lives without health insurance as of 2007.

And so the pieces continue. A desert wasteland composed of 8 million toothpicks, each toothpick standing in as one tree destroyed for the express purpose of mailing out monthly catalogues. A gray and white hazy mass becomes, upon closer inspection, 426,000 cell phones—also known as the number of retired phones in the United States each year. A mesmerizing series of concentric circles morphs into 213,000 Vicodin pills, each pill a United States hospital visit in one year involving the often abused prescription medication.

The crowning achievement, however, seems to be the “Ben Franklin.” The faint image of the seminal American, standing 8.5 feet wide and 10.5 feet high, stares out at onlookers. His image is composed of minute $100 bills. 125,000 of those $100 bills to be exact. Another way to view that figure is $12.5 million, the amount spent each hour on the war in Iraq.

Chris Jordan is not the first to utilize this aesthetic technique, but he is the first to infuse it with so much relevance and impact. We hear statistics every day, but numbers do not always penetrate. It’s hard to fathom a number like 213,000 until you have it before you on a larger than life multi-paneled exhibit. It replaces the cold, sterility of numbers with the beauty of a visual image depicting the same information.

In addition to the issues his exhibit directly tackles, namely unchecked consumerism and government spending, his work reminds the viewer there is an importance and sacredness to the individual even in an ever-growing, increasingly confusing context. The work demonstrates in an extremely literal way that the whole is composed of its constituent parts. It would be meaningless and jumbled without them. It doesn’t take a doctorate in art history to make the correlative jump to the individual in society.

And that’s a very real part of this exhibits charm. There is something accessible about the work. Even if you close your eyes to the proverbial “message” behind the images, you can still feel a visceral sense of wonder at their scope, intricacy, and meticulous order.

Although the images can be viewed online at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery website (, Chris Jordan warns against settling for the smaller web versions. A pivotal part of the exhibits power is experiencing the sheer size of these creations. To view them, even at varying levels of magnification, is just to understand the basic concept. That sense of awe and relevance they are meant to evoke remains abstract.

For more information about this exhibit, or any of Jordan’s previous work, visit his website:

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Chris Jordan is not the first to utilize this aesthetic technique, but he is the first to infuse it with so much relevance and impact.

Category: Contemporary Art

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