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Jason Salavon
at Eight Modern, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Recommendation by Kathryn M Davis

Continuing through July 25, 2010

Born in 1970, Jason Salavon grew up with ever-evolving computer technology; it is natural, then, that he teaches classes in visual arts and the Computation Institute at the University of Chicago. His "Spigot (Babbling Self-Portrait)" features two projections, meeting where the walls adjoin, of what he's googled over the past two years. Fittingly, the litany of well over 11,000 searches visually references Jenny Holzer, on the right, and Josef Albers' "Homages to the Square" to the viewer's left. Although Holzer and Albers worked with repetition, their purposes and content remain entirely different both from one another's and from Salavon's. His art's formal aspects alone were chosen from an endless pool of possibilities - rather like plucking a handful of stars from the billions in our universe.

There is a refreshing dialogue with art history that Salavon establishes in all of his work. It is, in fact, one of the only unifying characteristics in this exhibition, which runs a gamut of genres from 17th-century Dutch memento mori to the above-named modern and postmodern artists; from Baroque painting to French Impressionism. Salavon pulls a post-Francis Bacon tactic by deconstructing roughly 80 of Diego Velázquez's portraits, and recombining the pixellated results into a portrait of the master himself. All reference to Bacon's great work is quickly dispelled, however, by a close-up look at Salavon's "portrait." It is rather disappointingly evident that this is a print, as flat as it can be; and while I could go on about the notion of super-flatness as a positive position in the digital age, computer screens and glass-encased prints will never replace the frank opulence of painting. That Salavon's works trick the eye into lusting after the old-fashioned medium is a tribute to his art, however. His version of computer-programmed trompe l'oeil is both remarkable and maddening: a striking combination that adds up to art.

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