A leading innovator in new media art, Salavon uses self-designed software to pull images and data from the internet and mass media and transforms them into digital prints, videos and installations. Salavon’s work reframes our experience of the overwhelming abundance of communal media, while revealing both familiar and unexpected patterns in a seeming chaos of information.
In their most recent issue, Art + Auctionselected Salavon as one of 50 Under 50: The Next Most Collectible Artists. “Salavon’s works illuminate how new technology infiltrates our culture and consciousness. But it’s his talent for conceptual clarity, matched by an affinity for formal beauty, that earned him such a broad-based following,” the magazine’s Eric Bryant writes.
With the exhibition title Chance Animals, Salavon says, “I’m referencing the mix of indeterminacy (chance) and order in my work, and also, ideas of taxonomy and evolution. But more importantly, the poetics of all those features. Are my works the Chance Animals hatched from my art-making vision?”
Chance and order drive Salavon’s process; his programs collect and sort immense amounts of data and manipulate the aggregate into compelling images.
In Wheel, Salavon constructs a 54-inch standard color wheel from thousands of images obtained by searching color terms on the internet. “While the results mostly conform to expectations, e.g., ‘orange’ predominately returns images of orange things, there are some important exceptions: blue [or] violet yields a lot of flesh-tone and is most definitely not safe for work,” Salavon notes. “Here, the interest lies in mapping a ‘semantic gradient’ to a color gradient through the amoral and skewed lens of search engines.”
A similar approach yields Good and Evil ’12, dual 82×130 inch ink-jet prints accompanied by digital video screens. Each print contains approximately 25,000 images acquired through an image search for the 100 most positive and most negative words in the English language.
Chance Animalsalso includes the One Week Skinseries, in which Salavon sourced and abstracted 168 hours of programming from three cable television networks (CNN, ESPN, HBO) at 15 frames per second, then reformatted the results into concentric squares, rectangular bars, and a pixilated image that recalls a VHS tape being played on fast-forward.
In addition to his work as an artist, Salavon teaches at the University of Chicago, where he is an assistant professor of visual arts, as well as a faculty member and fellow of the university’s Computation Institute.
Salavon holds an M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a B.A. in Studio Art from the University of Texas, where he minored in computer science. He previously worked in the video game industry as an artist and programmer. His work is held in numerous public collections, including Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the International Center of Photography, and the National Portrait Gallery. Salavon has been honored with recent solo exhibitions or installations at the Taubman Museum in Roanoke, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Columbus Museum of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the US Census Bureau.