"Birk is pursuing one of the most fascinating, unpredictable careers in Los Angeles art" — New Times Los Angeles
When artist Sandow Birk takes on a book, he goes well beyond a close reading. Birk spent five years illustrating and translating the 14,000 lines of Dante’s Divine Comedy into contemporary slang, setting the action in modern urban America. His most recent project was nine years in the making: a hand transcription of the entire Qur'an, illustrated with relevant scenes from contemporary American life and informed by traditions of Islamic illuminated manuscripts. The project, which drew on a decade of extended travel in Muslim countries, was published as American Qur’an one year ago.
In this conversation with the artist, entitled “Journeys of Understanding” we celebrate his exploration of humanity’s diverse world views through our seminal texts.
View images from American Qur'an here.
ABOUT SANDOW BIRK
Los Angeles-based visual artist Sandow Birk is a well-traveled graduate of the Otis/Parson's Art Institute. Frequently developed as expansive, multi-media projects, his work focuses on social issues, frequently exploring themes of inner city violence, graffiti, political issues, travel, war, and prisons, as well as surfing and skateboarding. Birk was a recipient of an NEA International Travel Grant to Mexico City in 1995 to study mural painting, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996, and a Fulbright Fellowship for painting to Rio de Janeiro for 1997. In 1999 he was awarded a Getty Fellowship for painting, followed by a City of Los Angeles (COLA) Fellowship in 2001. In 2007 he was an artist in residence at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, and at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris in 2008. He is a former Montalvo Artist Fellow, and portions of American Qur’an were completed while he was in residence at our Lucas Artists Residency.