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Art August, 17 2010

Sandow Birk “American Qur’an” at PPOW

From September 10, 2010, P•P•O•W (511 West 25th Street, Room 301, New York, NY 10001) will present the next installation of Sandow Birk’s American Qur’an.

In this ambitious project, Birk has been transcribing the entire Qur’an into English along with illustrated narratives. The complexities of the relationship between Western and Middle Eastern societies have been heightened since the events of September 11th, and the lack of knowledge about Islam and the Qur’an, which is frequently cited in the media, is something Birk realized he and most Americans struggle with. Through the American Qur’an series, Birk presents a new version of this holy book that is more accessible and also shows how the teachings can be applied to the daily experiences of American life.

In this exhibition there will be seventeen suras (chapters) on view, each of which are on paper and measure 16 x 24 inches. Using stylized calligraphy, Birk transcribes translated text of the Qu’ran and then illustrates a scene from everyday life to emphasize what is in the text. Scenes such as golfing, shoveling snow, Hurricane Katrina, and surveillance in city streets are all visual interpretations of the text which induce the reader to see how these teachings can be applied to familiar scenes. Birk’s compositions mix the influences of Persian miniature painting and medieval manuscripts, as well as incorporate contemporary street stylizations and graffiti art.

Sandow Birk received his BFA from Otis Art Institute in 1988. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, fellowships, and grants, including: Guggenheim Fellowship, J. Paul Getty Fellowship, NEA grants, COLA fellowship in Visual Art, and Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship Award. He has had several solo museum exhibitions including: Katzen Art Center, San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, San Jose Museum of Art, the Laguna Art Museum, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, and the Heidelberger Kunstverein in Heidelberg, Germany. His work is in numerous museum collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Harvard University Museum, the De Young Museum, The Getty Center, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Jose Museum of Art, the New York Historical Society, and the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art.

Birk’s work will remain on view through October 9, 2010. More images of American Qu’ran after the jump.

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