Sandow Birk, CANTO XII, 11-12: The Minotaur, from Dante's Inferno, 2003, lithograph on paper, 14 x 11", courtesy of the artist and the Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Culver City, Calif.
Sandow Birk exhibition re-imagines Dante’s Divine Comedy
Sandow Birk is a Los Angeles painter and printmaker who, since the early 2000s, has re-imagined Dante's Divine Comedy. An exhibition of his prints and drawings opens on Oct. 16 and continues through Dec. 23 at Willamette University's Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Organized by director John Olbrantz, the exhibition features 35 prints and 19 drawings from Dante's Inferno that the artist sets in contemporary Los Angeles, with Dante as a Southern Californian led by a mullet-sporting Virgil.
Birk collaborated with writer Marcus Sanders to re-write and illustrate Dante's Divine Comedy. Beginning with Gustave Dore's 19th century illustrated version of the literary classic, he meticulously copied the older artist's original illustrations, setting the Inferno in Los Angeles, Purgatorio in San Francisco and Paradiso in New York. Sanders translated the text into contemporary American English while Birk adapted the original illustrations into 21st century imagery. The work was subsequently published in a three volume set.
Birk was born in Detroit in 1962 and educated at the Otis Institute of the Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles, where he received his bachelor's in fine arts. He has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions over the past 20 years and is included in public and private collections throughout the United States and abroad. In addition, he is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, a Getty Fellowship and an Artist in Residence Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Art, among others.
Sandow Birk: Dante's Inferno has been supported in part by grants from the City of Salem's Transient Occupancy Tax funds and the Oregon Arts Commission.
For more information, please call (503) 370-6855 or visit the museum's website.