P•P•O•W is pleased to present Paradiso by Sandow Birk. This is Birk's first exhibition at P•P•O•W and marks the New York premier of his reinterpretation of Dante's Divine Comedy.
Sandow Birk's Paradiso is the third installment of a remarkable update on Dante Alighieri's 14th century epic poem about the human condition. Birk, a southern California artist has collaborated with writer Marcus Sanders (of Surfline and Surf Magazine) to contemporize and illustrate the classic poem with current political content and popular culture that is akin to the poem's original substance and meaning.
Birk begins Dante's Inferno in Los Angeles, moves through Purgatorio in San Francisco, and finishes Dante's journey from hell to heaven in New York Paradiso (LAX to JFK redeye). The exhibition of Paradiso contains seventy-one original drawings and three new paintings. Birk has employed a method of drawing modeled after Durer's famous plates of the same series. His use of intricate cross-hatching creates the nuance of a classical etching, but fused with the style and starkness of a graphic novel. Each ink drawing plays with the lucidity of the classical symbol: the vision of a divine eagle becomes the golden arches of McDonalds, Thomas Aquino harks under the arch de triumph in Washington Square, and the Fifth Heaven of Mars transforms itself into the glitz of Times Square: "In The Fifth Heaven of Mars, the lights danced around us, sparkling with love, and gathering until they formed the letters of words."
The exhibition is accompanied by an editioned set of the hardbound Divine Comedy books printed by Trillium Press. Paradiso, the third hand-made book of the trilogy is bound in white leather with gold stamping, contains all of Birk's exhibited drawings reproduced as lithographs. All three books in the project have been published in trade versions by Chronicle Books.
Sandow Birk is a recipient of Fulbright, Getty, and Guggenheim Fellowships and National Endowment for the Arts grants. His work is in the permanent collections of The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San Jose Museum of Art, and the New York Historical Society. A traveling show of all three installments of the Divine Comedy will be exhibited at the San Jose Museum of Art beginning in September 2005.