The First Art Newspaper on the Net Established in 1996 United States Friday, April 18, 2014


'American Qur'an' Blends US Life, Quranic Verses
In this Thursday, September 17, 2009 photo, art patrons Jennifer Schneiderman, left, and Barbara George look at the work of Sandow Birk titled "American Qur'an" at the Koplin Del Rio Gallery in Culver City, Calif. Birk has created an illustrated, English-language Quran that he's calling the "American Qur'an". The text of the Quran is handwritten in a graffiti-style script modeled on graffiti found in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

By: Gillian Flaccus, Associated Press Writer

CULVER CITY, CA.- The scene is seared into the American psyche: the residents of New Orleans engulfed by flood waters, perched on rooftops and desperate for help as corpses float past and helicopters whirl overhead.

The depiction of Hurricane Katrina's devastating aftermath is a visceral image that Americans would expect to find in a history book or on TV — but not in the pages of the Quran, the holy book of the Islamic faith.

That's precisely why painter Sandow Birk chose to include a watercolor of the ravaged city in his latest exhibit "American Qur'an," a re-imagining of the Islamic holy book that pushes cultural and religious boundaries by blending the tome's ancient chapters with postcards from the American experience.

Birk hopes it will help the religious text speak to modern Christians as clearly as Muslims believe God spoke to the Prophet Muhammad so many centuries ago. Many Christians also don't realize that the Quran contains some of the same characters — including Noah, Moses and Abraham — they learned about in Sunday school, he said.

"When you go to a church here, the minister reads a passage from the Bible and then he spends 30 minutes talking about, 'How does this passage relate to your life in the 21st century?' That's a familiar way that Americans have of dealing with religious texts," Birk said. "This is a whole passage about Noah and it's sort of hard to imagine a flood of Noah's epic proportions today — but we can very well remember the flood of Katrina."

In Birk's version, each chapter of the Quran has been carefully copied in English in a calligraphy modeled on the urban graffiti of America's inner cities. The stark black text is bordered by scenes from American life both mundane and extraordinary: gangsters flashing signs, Hurricane Katrina's devastation, migrants working the fields, a crowded airport lounge and a raging California wildfire among them.

Each painting relates to the sura, or chapter, it illustrates, either literally or metaphorically, Birk said.

Birk, an Orange County native who is known for using historical references to address thorny social issues, conceived of the project both as a political statement and an artistic and intellectual challenge. In preparation, he studied for three months at L'Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris and pored over ancient, hand-illustrated Qurans of all sizes and styles at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

"We've been engaged in this war for so many years, and it seemed that it would be nice to know more about what's going on between the two cultures, since our country is investing so much into it," Birk said. "The message is very similar. There was sort of this moment where you just think, 'Why is there so much conflict here, because things are so similar?'"

Now, after five years of intermittent work, Birk is halfway done copying and illustrating the Quran's 114 suras. The completed 16-by-24 inch panels are on display until October 30, split evenly between galleries in San Francisco and Culver City, near Los Angeles. A third installation will be shown in New York City this winter before Birk offers the entire collection as a coffee table art book.

Birk, who had a self-described "sparse Christian upbringing," took painstaking care to copy many of the features of centuries-old Qurans, such as the colors, extra-large borders surrounding the holy text and the tiny, multicolored "rosettes" that separate verses and groups of verses on the page.

Yet he has also openly flouted one of the most time-tested traditions surrounding the Quran: a hard-and-fast bias against images of humans or animals within its pages. In contrast, Birk's panels explode with everyday life: a woman jogs through a darkening cityscape, a family gathers around a picnic table, a crowd of iPod-wearing Americans wearily wait at an airport gate and garbage men collect the trash on a gritty urban street.

Birk, 46, believes that because his work does not contain the original Arabic text, it is not considered a "true Quran."

One of his most provocative panels, on display in San Francisco, shows the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, alongside the sura entitled "Smoke." It opens with a Quranic passage about a sign from heaven, a calamitous day when smoke pours forth.

"It was obvious to me that ... if you didn't at some point discuss 9/11 it would just be sort of pointless," Birk said. "It's the crucial moment in the relationship between the two cultures. Any discussion of Islam in the United States has to talk about that."

Because of that content, Koplin Del Rio Gallery owners Sugar Elisa Brown and Eleana Del Rio braced for controversy when the show opened last month. They have been surprised and encouraged by the muted reaction: they have received only a handful of odd or threatening e-mails and some Muslims have written to express their appreciation. Surprisingly, some of the most vocal critics have been those who believe Birk's work portrays Islam in too positive a light, they said.

"We definitely gave it a little more consideration than we would any other show. We're not naive," said Brown. "It really came down to us believing in the work, in Sandow's intent with the work. We're art dealers and what we do is put up work on the walls that we feel has something legitimate to say."

Still, not everyone has appreciated the exhibit, including some Muslim religious leaders who believe the project degrades the Quran. Critic Mohammad Qureshi, administrator of the Islamic Center of Southern California, has refused to visit the gallery or look at pictures of the panels posted on the Internet.

"The Quran is above these things. It doesn't need to be depicted in that way," Qureshi said. "The Quran is accessible the way it is. It's been accessible for 1,400 years, so it doesn't need anything to make it more accessible."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Sandow Birk | American Qur'an | US Life |


Last Week News

October 8, 2009

Exhibition of Cosmic, Utopian and Experimental Works by Georges Vantongerloo

Egypt Announces It Has Cut Ties with France's Louvre Museum

Caravaggio's "Adoration of the Shepherds" to be Restored in Public

Fashion, Celebrity Photographer Irving Penn Dies at 92

Gagosian Presents an Exhibition of Selected Illustrated Spreads by Ed Ruscha

Hirshhorn Museum Opens Exhibition of Pioneering Figure in American Abstract Art

Newseum Recreates Journalist Tim Russert's Office in Exhibit

Stunning Safavid Rug from Late 16th Century Sold for $4.34 Million

Major Retrospective of Hungarian Artist László Moholy-Nagy at the Schirn

Landmark Sheeler Painting Acquired by Amon Carter Museum

Molten Color: Glassmaking in Antiquity Returns to the Getty Villa

Arts of the Samurai Sale at Christie's New York on October 23

Exhibition of the May Queen's Wedding Chest on View at Bismarck Foundation

Miami's Bacardi Buildings Win Historic Protection

Scribe will Write Out the Entire Text of the Torah at San Francisco Museum

An Insightful Look Into an Important Canadian Photographer's 50 Years Career

Aperture Foundation 2009 Benefit and Auction to be Held at The Lighthouse

William Kentridge and Oleg Kudryashov at The Kreeger Museum

The Heckscher Museum of Art Appoints Judith A. Jedlicka Interim Executive Director

Center Stage Exhibition Commemorates New AT&T Performing Arts Center

October 7, 2009

Over 120 Rarely Exhibited Letters by and to Vincent van Gogh on View

Musée du Quai Branly Opens Exhibition of the Legendary Teotihuacan

LACMA Announces First Exhibition Devoted to Renoir's Late Work

Sotheby's Achieves US$4,680,000 for Sanyu's Masterpiece

Exhibition at Pinacotheque de Paris Focuses on the Dutch 17th Century

Large-Scale Wall Installation by the Artist Chitra Ganesh at P.S. 1

Advocacy Program World Monuments Fund Announces 2010 Watch List

Green Day's Sell Out UK Tour Accompanied by Shoreditch Art Exhibition

Salvador Dalí Exhibition Leaves Melbourne a Huge Success

Norton Simon Announces The Familiar Face: Portrait Prints by Rembrandt

Obamas Decorate White House with Modern and Abstract Works of Art

Modern and Contemporary Sculpture in the Meadows Collection Opens

Exhibition Featuring Luo Ping Goes on View at Metropolitan Museum

South Africa's Fantastic Landscapes and People Glow in Bonhams Autumn Sale

Sotheby's to Present for the First Time Arab and Iranian Art in Its Main Contemporary Art Auction

Theodor Dalenson and Dimitris Daskalopoulos Elected to Board of Trustees of Guggenheim Foundation

Galerie Van den Akker to Exhibit Sixteen Sculptures by Artist Pamela Sunday

Looted Artifacts on Display at Afghan Museum

Fountain in New York's Landmark Lincoln Center Restored

I. M. Pei to Receive the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture

Collectors Named as Suspects in California Art Heist

October 6, 2009

Tate Presents Works by Four Artists Shortlisted for Britain's Turner Prize

New Gonzalez-Torres Acquisition Installed on Occasion of Museum's 50th Anniversary

Luxury Brand Louis Vuitton Celebrates Savoir-Faire with Creations by Six Artists

Nefertiti Bust Moved to Berlin's Restored Neues Museum

First Public Viewing of French Drawings from a Celebrated Dutch Collector

Drawings by Pablo Bronstein Featured in Fall Exhibition at the Metropolitan

Over 100 Leading Art Galleries will Participate at London Art Fair 2010

Picasso to Crown Kunsthaus Zürich Exhibition Program in 2010

Entries Now Open for Coveted 100,000 Pound Art Fund Prize

First Comprehensive Museum Exhibition for Jack Goldstein in Germany Since 1985

Special Exhibition Showcases the Work of 11 Contemporary Artists

McDonald's Fast Food Restaurant to Become Mona Lisa's New Neighbor

Paintings Made for The Who by John Davies on View at Idea Generation

National Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires Opens Pop Art Exhibition

Heckscher Museum Celebrates Artists Who have Lived in Long Island

Sotheby's to Offer Islamic Works of Art in Paris for the First Time

Rhode Island School of Design Publishes First Historical Anthology

Images of First Cars to Cross the Himalayas into Tibet 102 Years Ago and Secret Photos of Japan from 1898 for Sale

Distinguished Abstract Expressionist Painter Charles Seliger Dies at 83

October 5, 2009

Severin Wunderman's Collection Stands The Test Of Time At Bonhams

The Spirit of Jazz Arrives at the Getty Images Gallery on London

Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein Opens Modernism as a Ruin: An Archaeology of the Present

Exhibition at the School of Visual Arts Showcases Iconic Advertising and Graphic Design

Comprehensive Survey of German Impressionism to Open at Kunsthalle Bielefeld

BMA Celebrates Edgar Allan Poe's Bicentennial with Spooky Art and Illustrations

Former Director of the Royal Academy of Arts Launches New Company

Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU to Show European Artifacts

Installations by Michel Francois to be Shown at S.M.A.K.

Frick Art Museum Opens Exhibition of Photographs by Esther Bubley

Eight San Francisco Artists Respond to Surrealist Masterworks

Poland Street Underground, an Annual Two-Day Event in London During November

Sims Reed Gallery Acquires Sir Eduardo Paolozzi's Estate of Print Editions

KGB Studio & Gallery Refocuses Time with Exhibition of Photographs by Luis C. Garza

Meijer Gardens Premiere Major U.S. Retrospective Exhibition of British Sculptor Lynn Chadwick

'Sooners' Exhibit Explores Oklahoma, New Mexico Art

National Portrait Gallery Explores New Forms of Portraiture in Exhibition

Exhibition Critically Examines the Unusual and Absurd in Art

Celebrate Sustainable Living at the 2009 Danks Street Festival

Access Awareness Honour for Royal Ontario Museum

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Announces David R. Brigham as New President and CEO

October 4, 2009

Exhibition Built on New Research Focuses on Gauguin's Artistic Development

Soviet Art Photography from the 70s and 80s Opens at Rutgers University

Rubin Museum of Art Presents First Public Showing of Jung's Red Book

The Paintings of Charles Burchfield on View at the Hammer Museum

101 Master Drawings from the Kupferstichkabinett at the Kunstmuseum Basel

Seconds that Made History: Photographs by Harald Schmitt on View in Berlin

Richard Avedon's Fashion Photographs Coming to Detroit Institute of Arts

The Finest Scottish Art and Food Come Together at the National Gallery

Stunning and Significant French Drawings on View at the National Gallery of Art

Exhibition of Icons of American Photography Opens in Pittsburgh

Politicians Beware: Oil Photo Exhibit Opens in Washington

Major Exhibition of 18th Century French Drawings on View at the Morgan Library

Ceramic Museum in Barcelona Shows Chinese Porcelain from the Baur Collection

Denver Art Museum Joins Forces to Tell the Story of One of Colorado's Favorite Artists

Groundbreaking Exhibition Explores the Unique and Compelling Art of Ancient Hunters

Royal Academy is Showing Michael Kidner's Dreams of the World Order 1960s

A Town's Love of Indian Artifacts Backfires

Early Brazilian Plane in Wright Brothers Country

Cranbrook Art Museum Launches Artology: the Fusion of Art and Science

Norman Rockwell Museum Presents "I Am a Part of Art! The Artists of Community Access to the Arts"

The Print Club of Cleveland Celebrates the 25th Annual Fine Print Fair & 90th Anniversary of Club

Hunts for Indian Relics Date to 19th Century

October 3, 2009

Wide Array of Exquisite Works at Sotheby's Sale Next Week in Hong Kong

Abu Dhabi to Host First Exhibition in the Middle East from the Guggenheim

The Frick Collection Completes Series of Reinstallations

Important 19th Century European Art to be Sold at Sotheby's

Tate Liverpool Shows Jean Tinguely's Rarely Examined Early Career

Gregory Dale Smith Appointed Conservation Scientist at Indianapolis Museum

Crystal Bridges Museum Announces it Will Share Paintings

Renowned Collections Lead Silver and Objects of Vertu Sale at Christie's

Norton Museum Celebrates New York City with Exhibition

Taiwan's National Palace Museum to Open Joint Exhibition with China

Seoul Auction to Offer Works by Damien Hirst and Anish Kapoor Among Others

The Darker Side of Light Reveals the Arts of Privacy at the National Gallery of Art

Guggenheim Free Day Marks 50th Anniversary on October 21

Walker Art Center to Show Major Dan Graham Retrospective

"Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: The Art of the Superhero" Exhibition

Exhibition Surveys the Distinguished and Wide-Ranging Career of Surrealist Photographer Frederick Sommer

Important Afro-Caribbean Photographic Archive Acquired for Museum of London with Art Fund Help

Smithsonian American Art Museum Presents Retrospective of William T. Wiley

High Museum Launches New Web Content for Leonardo da Vinci Exhibition

Vancouver Art Gallery Announces Exhibition Program to Welcome the World During the 2010 Olympic Winter Games

Archives of American Art Receives Major Grant to Digitize Jacques Seligmann and Co. Gallery Records

Anne Frank Museum Launches YouTube Channel

Most Popular Last Seven Days



1.- 'World's oldest message in a bottle', tossed in sea 101 years ago, reaches granddaughter

2.- East-West/West-East: Qatar unveils desert sculpture by American artist Richard Serra

3.- Ming-era 'chicken cup' sells for $36.05 million breaking record for Chinese porcelain

4.- United States pastor Kevin Sutherland convicted over Damien Hirst fake paintings

5.- Major exhibition at Pinacothèque de Paris explores the myth of Cleopatra

6.- Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles opens with inaugural exhibition "Van Gogh Live!"

7.- Landmark exhibition opens in New York exploring the ancient kingdoms of Southeast Asia

8.- Palm-sized scroll that mentions Jesus's wife is ancient: Harvard Theological Review

9.- Hitler's wife Eva Braun may have had Jewish ancestry: British television documentary

10.- Bonhams to sell Madame de Pompadour's favourite porcelain which surfaced in Devon after 350 years



Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 

Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Rmz. - Marketing: Carla Gutiérrez
Special Contributor: Liz Gangemi - Special Advisor: Carlos Amador
Contributing Editor: Carolina Farias

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org theavemaria.org juncodelavega.org facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site