LONG BEACH, CA.-
The iconic imageries depicted in the work of Sandow Birk emerge as figments of the past, seemingly forgotten series of historical events, or aspects of American contemporary life that reflect on todays societal concerns. The Long Beach Museum of Art
is presenting, Monumental: Sandow Birk, the Los Angeles-based artists institutional debut of the ongoing series, Imaginary Monuments that began in 2007. The thought-provoking body of work humorously mines through some of the historical documents or contracts that have shaped the country we inhabit, often encapsulating the political ironies that have surfaced throughout past and contemporary events.
The intrinsic nature of the various texts sourced from historical documents manifests in proposed monumental structures, thoughtfully and meticulously designed to welcome close observation and reflection. Set against imagined backdrops created in stylistic unison, each structure interlaid amongst its equally distinct surrounding environment comprises a multitude of layered narratives. The complex and intricate details within these large-scale works on paper demonstrate the artists vast scope in his approach to storytelling, as well as the subject matter. Birks insightful historical references correspond to his exploration with combining text and images through printmaking, a process that dates back to fifteenth-century Europe.
American Procession (2017), a large-scale woodcut print created in collaboration with artist and partner, Elyse Pignolet is presented alongside Birks Imaginary Monuments. The installation of American Procession consists of three large woodcut prints portraying a procession of significant individuals that have contributed to American history. Key figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. coincide with the lesser known on one side, marching right, while figures like George Bush and Ronald Regan of politically opposing sides are housed on the opposite side, marching left. Adjoining the two processions rests the center panel depicting a disheveled landscape spotted with cultural elements representative of America and falling into gentle ruin, perhaps challenging any possible celebratory undertones of the scene in its entirety. Initially inspired by Der Fürstenzug or The Procession of Princes (1871-1876), a monumental mural located in Dresden, Germany, the two artists, together with Mullowney Press, San Francisco collaborated in adopting some of the visual and stylistic elements of the historic mural. Features such as the linear arrangement and the black and white figures juxtaposed against the gold backdrop remain while the parade of German rulers is replaced with political figures from American culture. The expansive triptych in the exhibition offers close inspection of certain events leading up to modern day history.
A past recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, Sandow Birk (b. 1962, Detroit, Michigan) has shown extensively in solo-exhibitions throughout the country and abroad, most recently in Prographica/KDR Gallery, Seattle, WA; Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Gus Fisher Gallery, University of Auckland, New Zealand; Sabeel Center, Chicago, IL; and the Museum of Texas Tech University, Lubbuck, TX, with a forthcoming solo-exhibition at P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York in January 2019. Birks work has been exhibited in numerous institutions including the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Eugene, OR; Riverside Museum of Art, CA; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA; and the San Jose Museum of Art, CA. His work is represented in permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; The Getty Center, Los Angeles, CA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Long Beach Museum of Art, CA; Harvard University Art Museum, Cambridge, MA, among many others. Together with artist, Elyse Pignolet, who works primarily in ceramic, the two collaborators have often teamed up on several projects.