The Chosen Ones
The Chosen Ones features an assortment of prints from two of his most recent series: The Leading Causes of Death in America and The Rake's Progress. In The Leading Causes, the images are a harkening back to the Ashcan School and the work of George Wesley Bellows (1882-1925). The series was commissioned by the San Diego Museum of Art in response to its outstanding Bellows Collection. Each image relates to a specific cause of death: heart attack, diabetes, drinking, smoking, stroke, HIV, and cancer. Sandow Birk transposes individual figures from Bellow’s prints into new contexts. It is a wry look at America’s lethal habits and Mr. Birk uses wit to strike a somber chord.
The Rake’s Progress is a reinterpretation of William Hogarth (etcher and engraver, 1697-1764). Hogarth was one of the first British artists to use urban life as the subject matter for his work. Mr. Birk, known for his social commentary, replaces Hogath’s cautionary character Thomas Rakewell with Rafael Perez. Perez was at the center of the Rampart scandal; the corrupt Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (or CRASH) anti-gang unit of the LAPD in the late 1990s. More than 70 police officers in the CRASH unit were implicated in misconduct, making it one of the most widespread cases of documented police misconduct in United States history. The series follows his misadventures, detailing his exploits. Viewers not familiar with this historical event will find the theatricality of the etchings and the moralistic prose illuminate the events and comment on the outcomes.
Sandow Birk has an extensive history of exhibitions both national and international, and has received many prestigious grants and awards. Five books have been published on his works and he has made two films. The majority of his work has dealt with contemporary American life with an emphasis on social issues including inner city violence, graffiti, various political issues, travel, prisons, surfing and skateboarding. Some local residents may remember his exhibit at the Museum of Art in 2006. He is a graduate of Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design (now Otis College of Art and Design) in Los Angeles.
Sandow Birk’s exhibit is adjacent to Traces, Marks and Fragments, January 20 ��" February 26, a statewide printmaking show juried by Mr. Birk. The 51 selected prints incorporate traditional printmaking methods such as: intaglio, lithography, serigraphy, monoprints, and monotypes. “We are honored to have someone of his stature in the art world jury our show. The quality of the work submitted was elevated due to his participation,” states Earlene Vaughn of the Central Coast Printmakers.