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Sandow Birk: Dante's Inferno

Hallie Ford Museum of Art
Salem OR – Oct 16-Dec 23, 2010

Sandow Birk, Canto XII, 31-33: Above the Eighth Circle, from Dante's Inferno

Sandow Birk, Canto XII, 31-33: Above the Eighth Circle, from Dante's Inferno (2003), lithograph on paper [Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Salem OR, Oct 16-Dec 23]

Sandow Birk, Canto XXVI

Sandow Birk, Canto XXVI (2003), lithograph on paper [Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Salem OR, Oct 16-Dec 23]

Sandow Birk, Canto XXXI

Sandow Birk, Canto XXXI (2003), lithograph on paper [Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Salem OR, Oct 16-Dec 23]

Dante's Inferno presents a series of drawings and prints created by Los Angeles artist Sandow Birk for a contemporary interpretation of Dante's Divine Comedy. Birk collaborated with writer Marcus Sanders to re-imagine the 14th century Italian epic poem, and their works were published in a three-volume set. Sanders translated the text into contemporary American English and Birk adapted Gustave Doré's famous 19th century classic illustrations into 21st century imagery by setting Inferno in Los Angeles, Purgatorio in San Francisco and Paradiso in New York.

In this exhibition, 36 prints and 20 drawings from Birk's version of Dante's Inferno depict Dante as a Southern Californian wandering through the afterworld with the mulletsporting Virgil. The landscape is littered with fixtures of urban life and pop culture. Fast-food stands, ATM's, and gas stations are part of Birk's hellish vision of Los Angeles. In Canto XXVI, Dante and Virgil are perched alongside the Hollywood sign overlooking the nightmarish metropolis. The poignant satire of Birk's imagery is evident, as the artist creates a contemporarily relevant allegory that is witty and humorous while quietly bringing forth current realities.

Sandow Birk is a well-known American artist whose provocative work deals with contemporary life and social issues. Themes of inner city violence, war, graffiti, prisons, and politics have been subjects of his previous series. Currently, Sandow Birk is working on an American Qur'an interpretation that is hand-transcribed according to historic Islamic traditions. He is illuminating the text with scenes from contemporary American life.

www.willamette.edu/museum_of_art/

Allyn Cantor


 Thu, Nov 4, 2010