November 8 – December 14, 2007
Just as Francisco Goya drew on the prints of the French printmaker Jacques Callot (1592-1635) for inspiration, Sandow Birk now draws on Callot to create a series of prints commenting on the debaucheries of warfare in our times. Using Callot’s Miseries and Misfortunes of War as a starting point and casting their epic compositions in both America and in the ravaged landscape of Iraq, Birk’s prints depict the course of war and its aftereffects. Scaled up and utilizing the woodcut printmaking process to full graphic effect, the images are at once familiar and contemporary, while recognizable as drawing from traditions of art history.
The project consists of 15 monumental woodcut prints, each measuring 48” x 96”. Printed in collaboration with master printer Paul Mullowney of HuiPress in Makawao, Hawaii, and using traditional woodblock printing techniques on Japanese paper, the images follow the course of an unnamed, but recognizable war – from the recruiting and training of troops to the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. Images depict the attacks on the mosque in Fallouja, the torturing of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, and insurgent bombings of vehicles along Baghdad’s notorious Airport Road. As in current events, the initial invasion soon degenerates into guerilla warfare and chaos, popular uprisings, scenes of abuse, and eventually to the returning of wounded veterans and would-be celebrations of heroism. Like his predecessors, Birk’s prints draw on art history and current events in a polemical series that critiques the eternal and universally senseless practice of war and military injustice.