Culture High & Low with Carolina A. Miranda
By Carolina A. Miranda
Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2014
EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED
After Venice, it was on to Culver City, where Koplin Del Rio is featuring the work of SoCal artist Sandow Birk. For roughly a decade, Birk transcribed, by hand, the entire Quran and illuminated it with scenes from everyday American life. The series, which Birk started showing in early installations in 2009, has been well covered in the media (here , here and here; plus Birk has an explainer on his website), so I won't go into its whole history. But even if you've seen them before, these works are worth revisiting for their meditative qualities. I particularly like this depiction of Sura 113 — "Say, 'I take refuge in the Lord of the daybreak'" — one of a series of invocations that offers protection from evil. Here, Birk shows it against a sherbet-y California sky at dawn, a time when surfers are conducting their own daybreak rituals. (Birk, by the way, is a surfer.)
THE ACT OF LOOKING. Birk's show is not the sort of thing you can rush through, since his ink-and-gouache illuminations are not only laden with text, they also feature myriad images in the background and margins. This image is from a larger painting titled "The Material Realm: The Heavens (Yuri Gagarin and Neil Armstrong)" and shows a common L.A. sight: a corner street vendor likely selling champurrado.
Sandow Birk: "American Qur'an" at Koplin del Rio through Oct. 17. 6031 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 836-9055. koplindelrio.com.