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’sIce 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.
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.”