Raised on the beaches of California and currently living and working in Los Angeles, Sandow Birk is well traveled and a graduate of the Otis/Parson's Art Institute. His work has dealt with contemporary life in its entirety. With an emphasis on social issues, frequent themes of his past work have included inner city violence, graffiti, various political issues, travel, prisons, surfing, and skateboarding.
He was a recipient of an NEA International Travel Grant to Mexico City in 1995, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996, and a Fulbright Fellowship 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. Sandow is represented by the Koplin del Rio Gallery in Los Angeles, Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco, and P.P.O.W. Gallery in New York City.
Sandow's epic, pseudo-historical series "In Smog and Thunder" - in which Los Angeles and San Francisco wage all out war for control of the Golden State - was shown at the Laguna Art Museum in 2000, and his "mockumentary" film of the same name has won numerous awards at film festivals across the country. His series of idyllic landscape paintings of prisons was exhibited at the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum in 2001 and in New York in 2002.
Most recently, he has completed an enormous project involving the rewriting and illustrating of the entire "Divine Comedy" into contemporary American English. The resulting exhibition "Sandow Birk's Divine Comedy" was shown at the San Jose Museum of Art in 2005 and traveled to several institutions. He has just completed a feature film, "Dante's Inferno", in collaboration with Paul Zaloom, Sean Meredith, and Elyse Pignolet, which will be featured at several film festivals in 2007. He has also been awarded a Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Art for 2007 in Washington, D.C.
Birk is pursuing one of the most fascinating, unpredictable careers in Los Angeles art.New Times Los Angeles
Sandow Birk emerges from the same just-left-of-the-mainstream school that bred [other] latter-day artists and he offers a further testament to the insight, intelligence, and wit with which the post-baby boomer generation is utilizing its pop-culture saturation.LA Weekly
This version of the "Inferno" is God's face in a Groucho mask, a triumphant cathedral that will bring new readers to Dante... and new converts to the growing church of Sandow Birk.S.F. Chronicle
Birk has got at the parts of L.A. that recall Piranesi, not David Hockney, the sinister noir terrain of freeway overpasses and cuttings and drainage ditches that create a stacked-up, tangled vertical landscape far from the flat, sunshiny L.A. of the usual iconography.London Review of Books