Tom Sanford has drawn portraits of the people in his neighborhood. It’s good to be, it’s wonderful to be a neighbor, Sanford seems to be saying with his empathic ink wash drawings. Sanford is an enormously skillful portraitist. He manages to both simplify and capture the emotion and spirit of the person he is drawing. In an age of constant news stories about how no one is getting along, it is great to see an artist reach out to their community and basically say ‘hey, I like you, and we are in this together.’ You can see these drawings, along with the large oil painting pictured first in this post, at his show, What’s Good in the Hood, at Gitler & _____, it opens January 4th and runs until the 18th.
MASS Gallery in Austin, Texas recently opened its newest exhibition, Exquisite Corpse. The group curated by Beautiful/Deay’s founder Amir H. Fallah features a myriad of artists, with many that we’ve featured in Beautiful/Decay publications and on our site: Dan Attoe, Jay Davis, Bill Donovan, Austin Eddy, Amir H. Fallah, Chie Fueki, Joshua Hagler, Adam D. Miller, Kymia Nawabi, Christopher Pate, Max Presniell, Colette Robbins, Maja Ruznic, Tom Sanford, Alfred Steiner, Michael Shaw, and Dani Tull. In their own way, each artist explores the body and what it means to be human in the modern world.
Exquisite Corpse refers to the collaborative game whose origins are rooted among the Dadist writers as a poetic exercise and the Surrealist later turned into a drawing game. You might’ve played it before; when each person does their part well, it creates an alluring, sometimes grotesque body that was completely unexpected.
This exhibition brings together artists working in both Los Angeles and NYC. As MASS Gallery poetically describes:
A central problem of 21st century life is that the old, psychologically fortifying myths are fading. Philosophers and scientists have described us as wet robots and biological algorithms, which is perhaps an intentionally shocking way to describe humanity, but these descriptions also seems to get close to a dangerous truth that contains a kernel of abject horror. It is the artist’s job to create psychologically coherent images which look forward. It is now a matter of viewpoint whether, when it is all said and done, you are a dead body or an Exquisite Corpse.
In addition to the show, the gallery also produced a full-color catalog that showcases all of the work and an essay by Bill Donovan. The limited-edition, 102 page publication features a beautiful spot UV with fluorescent cover. If you can’t make it to Austin for the show (it’s up until October 25), then the inexpensive-yet-high-quality catalog is totally worth it.
More work by the featured artists as well as sample spreads from the publication after the jump.
As New York’s unofficial artistic ambassador to Copenhagen this September, Tom Sanford is presenting a possessed Charlie Sheen grinning while staring fixedly forward, blue flame lighter in hand, delicately pinching a glass pipe. Sheen is entwined with a bemused, half-dressed woman about to slur out something not worth hearing, or maybe she’ll recite Macbeth: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player. That struts and frets his hour upon the stage. And then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” She’s palming a cocktail tray piled with white powder and and balancing a can of Four Loko. Four Loko is the drink that famously mixed alcohol with stimulants (Wikipedia says it’s just alcohol now), confusingly allowing us to do more and experience less at the same time. This painting is funny, but it also digs in the human condition in ways that we can all relate too. Sheen’s grimacing face might as well be the anamorphic skull in Holbein’s The Ambassadors, because it carries the same warning. Tom Sanford is one of those guys, who if you’ve been around New York, you sort of know already. He speaks with the charisma and articulate precision of an evening news anchor, but instead of scaring you like the news anchor does, he creates strangely healing images. Tom Sanford’s newest show is “The Decline of Western Civilization (Part III),” and it opens at Gallery Poulsen in Copenhagen on September 2nd.
Brent Birnbaum is an artist with one hell of a sense of humor. To commemorate the 2o year anniversary of Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby single (the first hip-hop single to top the Billboard charts) Brent created the alter ego Ice Ice Maybe. Find a recap of the performance and his recreation after the jump.
Tom Sanford’s new work touches on politics and our infotainment culture with equal enthusiasm. For your viewing pleasure there is an erotically oily Sarah Palin, the repressed sexuality of Philip Guston, a Jong Il fist-bump, Jail Birds, and love affairs between beautiful nymphets and strangely hairy men. I think that’s something for everyone. All of these paintings have emigrated to Europe. Some for Copenhagen at Gallery Poulsen, and some to Norway, for a show at Galleri S E.
If painting is your thing, there’s a very good pop-up group show up in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. It’s only up for two days. Hung from floor-to-ceiling, the paintings disperse across the space in the configuration of an explosion. A bunch of artists who’ve been featured on B/D are in it: Tom Sanford, Jeremy Willis, Eddie Martinez, Aaron Johnson, and Eric Yahnker. There’s a huge list of people in the show.
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.”