Sandow Birk speaks at PNCA, December 2009.
In Depravities of War Birk draws on Jacques Callot’s “Miseries and Misfortunes of War” to create a series of monumental woodcut prints, each measuring 48” x 96,” commenting on the debaucheries of contemporary warfare. Printed in collaboration with master printer Paul Mullowney of HuiPress in Makawao, Hawaii, this body of work features traditional woodblock printing techniques on Japanese paper.
In the series American Qur’an, Birk hand-transcribes and illuminates the Holy Qur’an with scenes from contemporary American life. Birk’s version of the Qur’an is based on traditional manuscripts—chapter headings are decorated and the pages are illuminated with miniature paintings in full color, using inks, acrylics, gouache, pencil, and metallic paints.
Raised on the beaches of Orange County and currently living in Southern California, is a product of West Coast culture. Well-traveled and a graduate of the Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design, Los Angeles, his work has explored Los Angeles County in its entirety, as well as locations around the nation and abroad.
With an emphasis on social issues, frequent subjects of his past work have included barrio life, inner-city violence, graffiti, imprisonment, surfing, and skateboarding. Often merging fact and fiction, Birk creates salient and humorous works that invoke justice. He frequently pursues a particular subject in depth, developing a body of paintings, drawings, prints, and dioramas to support his idea.
In the past several years Birk’s work has been included in more than 10 museum exhibitions and 25 solo shows; he has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, a Getty Fellowship, and a City of Los Angeles Fellowship. Two of Birk’s major projects, “In Smog and Thunder” and “Incarcerated: Vision of California in the 21st Century,” were published as monographs by Last Gasp, and Birk’s version of “Dante’s Inferno” was published by Chronicle Books in 2004. Birk has exhibited with Catharine Clark Gallery since 1994.