A look at Sandow Birk's ambitious series about a fictional recent war between Northern and Southern California, which needs to be seen in its entirety to be fully understood. By documenting this "Great War" —Birk's drawings and paintings parody the styles of early artist-explorers —his works offer social criticism on the general state of things in California.
Los Angeles artist Sandow Birk is a graduate of the Otis/Parson's Art Institute whose work deals with contemporary life. Frequently developed as expansive, multi-media projects, past themes have included inner city violence, graffiti, social and political issues, travel, prisons, the Holy Qur’an, surfing, and skateboarding. He was a recipient of an NEA International Travel Grant to Mexico City in 1995, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996, and a Fulbright Fellowship to Rio de Janeiro for 1997. In 1999 he was awarded a Getty Fellowship for painting, followed by a City of Los Angeles (COLA) Fellowship in 2001.
One of his projects involved the rewriting and illustrating of the entire Divine Comedy into contemporary American English. Three books were published —Dante's Inferno, Dante's Purgatorio, and Dante's Paradiso. A feature film of the project, Dante’s Inferno, was released in 2007.
Birk has was awarded an Artist Research Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. in 2007, and he was an Artist in Residence at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris in 2008, and at the Ballinglen Arts Foundation in Ireland in 2011. In 2014 he was named as a United States Artist Knight Fellow.
His most recent project, American Qur’an, is a consideration of the holy Qur’an as relevant to contemporary life in America, single-handedly creating a hand-transcribed and illuminated manuscript of the entire holy text in English.
Sandow is represented by the Koplin del Rio Gallery in Los Angeles, Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco, and P.P.O.W Gallery in New York City.