Midwest Photographers Project: Jason Salavon

117 Homes for Sale, Chicagoland, 1999

About the Exhibition

Jason Salavon (United States, born 1970) selects as source material groups of images from popular culture—real-estate listing photographs, Playboy centerfolds, high-school yearbook portraits—and blends them into generalized images characteristic of types existing in everyday life.

The picture at the top of this page, for example, represents a typical median-price Chicago home ($200,000 – $300,000) for sale in the summer of 1999. To create the image, Salavon collected 117 listing photographs, digitized them, and then color averaged them using software that he wrote himself. The final picture shows only the commonalities of the typical listing photograph: sky above, ground below, house full frame. When viewed as a complete suite of pictures made of homes in various cities, Homes for Sale outlines predominant differences between regions: the sky in Seattle is darker than in Chicago, the homes in Miami are typically ranch-style.

Salavon chose to blend pictures of not-so-average women in his series Every Playboy Centerfold. By fusing 120 centerfolds from each decade in the 1960s – 90s, Salavon created blurred compositions emphasizing predominant characteristics of the typical Playboy model: long hair, light skin, thin body, radiant against a bluish background. Presented as a series, the pictures reveal the thinning, lightening, and increased frontality of the playmates over the years.

All of Salavon’s amalgam series depend on the digital capacity to treat every pixel individually and operate the mathematical formula for averages on miniscule color elements. Yet the technological precision used to produce his pictures is counterbalanced by their hazy, impressionistic form. The final compositions, significantly abstract, reveal cultural generalities as they hint at the glut of information, manipulated and generated by digital mediums, that has become a powerful reality of contemporary life.

Jason Salavon received his BA in studio art and computer science from the University of Texas at Austin (1993) and his MFAfrom The School of The Art Institute of Chicago (1997), where he is currently a part-time faculty member in the Art and Technology Department.