Studio Visit: Tom Sanford

Tom Sanford had me over to his spacious basement studio in Tribeca this past Saturday.  I became aware of Sanford’s work in 2008 when I saw his show “Mr. Hangover” at Leo Koenig, Inc.  Tom’s main project is capturing our rapid-fire digital culture in the slow language of painting.  If it’s in the news – it’s likely fodder for his paintings.  When we watch TV, a pop star’s recent public tantrum is covered with the same attention as the death count in a war zone.  Tom doesn’t try to adjust the playing field between pop culture and world events – he conflates them.  But when that happens in a painting the dissonance is in your face in a way that it isn’t on TV.  For instance, in a new large-scale painting, Bill Murray (as a red capped Steve Zissou from The Life Aquatic) is being held at gun point by pirates off the coast of Somalia.  It’s inexplicably poignant – maybe because I care about the character from a movie?  Sanford speaks eloquently about how painting is slow media, and how we’re all enmeshed in fast media – he has a sign up in his studio that sums it up as “The worse the better.”

sanford lil wayne and james franco2

These are going to an art fair.

sanford lil wayne smoke

That smoke is sculptural, it’s painted really thick and drying with that undulating texture.  Cyanaa has prints of this Lil Wayne painting.

sanford james franco

For painting nerds – super use of underpainting with the smile lines and upper gums in this James Franco portrait.

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sanford not my friend

This is part of another project Tom’s working on where he finds people with his same name, and then makes a portrait of them.  This one is a self-portrait, and really beautifully painted.

sanford jeremy and redding willis

Jeremy Willis came over, he introduced Tom and I.  Behind Jeremy is a painting of the Wal-Mart where one of the workers was trampled to death last year.  This is our contemporary version of history painting.

sanford 2pac tattoo

Tom did a project where he transformed himself into Tupac Shakur a couple of years ago, this is one of Tupac’s tattoos.  He was going to get ThugLife tattooed across his stomach, but the tattoo artist told him that “people have been shot for less.”  So he just went with the one tattoo.

sanford octo baby

One of the octo-babies.

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