An Artist’s Qur’an for Contemporary America
Purgatorio, the second canticle of Dante’s Divine Comedy, is about hope and the climb out of Inferno toward Paradiso. Purgatorio contains 69 original signed lithographs, a dynamic translation by the artist and co-author Marcus Sanders, and is bound in dark green leather with gold stamping. In Birk’s images, Purgatory is largely located in San Francisco with trips by Dante and Virgil to Bali and Tokyo. The book was published in a numbered edition of 100 (plus 22 proofs) and contains introductions by Marcia Tanner, Michael Meister and Ron Murphy.
In drawings, paintings, sculptures, and ambitious long-term projects, Sandow Birk explores contemporary American life, particularly social and political issues such as inner city violence and prisons. He is best known for American Qu’ran, an ongoing project begun in 2004, for which Birk is hand-copying the Muslim holy book in English, chapter by chapter, and illustrating the surrounding blank spaces with paintings inspired by its words. Birk’s intention is to create a cross-cultural version of the book, making it accessible to Americans and expressing the commonality between different faiths; his illustrations include American everymen, including mall shoppers and golfers. In 2005 Birk also collaborated with Marcus Sanders on the rewriting and illustrating of the entirety of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
American , b. 1962, Detroit, Michigan, based in California