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Saturday, October 10, 2009

'American Qur'an' blends US life, Quranic verses

In Birk's version, each chapter of the Quran has been carefully copied in English in a calligraphy modeled on the urban graffiti of America's inner cities. The stark black text is bordered by scenes from American life both mundane and extraordinary: gangsters flashing signs, Hurricane Katrina's devastation, migrants working the fields, a crowded airport lounge and a raging California wildfire among them. Each painting relates to the sura, or chapter, it illustrates, either literally or metaphorically, Birk said.

Now, after five years of intermittent work, Birk is halfway done copying and illustrating the Quran's 114 suras. The completed 16-by-24 inch panels are on display until Oct. 30, split evenly between galleries in San Francisco and Culver City, near Los Angeles. A third installation will be shown in New York City this winter before Birk offers the entire collection as a coffee table art book. 'American Qur'an' blends US life, Quranic verses


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