The Depravities of War

The Depravities of War
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Sandow Birk The Depravities of War

Sandow Birk is a local artist, based in Long Beach, whose work in painting, drawing and printmaking emphasizes social issues, including inner city violence, graffiti, politics, travel, prisons, surfing, and skateboarding. In 2007, the focus of his work turned to the war in Iraq. In “The Depravities of War”—a suite of fifteen woodblock prints, each measuring 4 by 8 feet—Birk addresses the inhumanity of war in the print medium following in a distinguished tradition that includes Jacques Callot and Francisco Goya. Callot’s “The Large Miseries of War” portfolio from 1633 was a reference for “The Depravities” although, unlike Callot who witnessed the events directly from his home in the Lorraine, Birk excerpted imagery from media coverage of the Iraq war. In addition, Birk employed woodcut (rather than etching) and greatly enlarged the scale. According to the artist, he started with pen and ink drawings (measuring 10" x 17”) and “then blew them up…on a copy machine at Kinko’s, piecemeal, and taped [them] together at 4 by 8 feet on the floor of my studio.” In Birk’s words: “The sketchiness of the small-scale drawings became bolder and the gestures more apparent, the figures more ‘blocky’ and stylized, etc.” The large scale and schematic quality render the images (and the message) bold and clear.

"The Depravities” were printed at HuiPress on Maui, Hawaii and were a gift from donors of the Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center, which oversees the press.

Leslie Jones, Curator, Prints and Drawings, (2009)

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