Tom Sanford: New Paintings and Photographs / 2004

September 18 – October 23, 2004

Reception for the artist: Saturday, September 18th from 5–8pm.

Western Project is proud to present the first west coast exhibition by New York artist, Tom Sanford. The show is comprised of two recent paintings, and photographs of the artist as Tupac Shakur, from Sanford’s project, Thug4Life, an investigation of fandom, celebrity, idolatry and art.

In his paintings Sanford uses a Renaissance style, remixed and shaken - replacing traditional religious iconography with Tupac Shakur and other gansta rap artists to create a kind of neo musical/religious narrative. The rise and fall of Shakur is depicted in a Christ framework, grounded in history and retold as myth. The paintings are colorful Pop sensations, direct and assertive, mirroring the operatic life of Shakur.

While his paintings ‘document’ events, Sanford’s photographs are pure fantasy – images of himself as Tupac, worked out, inked and strong. It is the performance aspect of the images which resonate deeply, and for some, uncomfortably – the white suburban kid posing as an urban black legend. But the hyperbolic fine line Sanford walks in these photos point to a desire for communion and authenticity in our culture - the possibility of community based on shared truths of music. It is perhaps through imitation – ‘to act as though’ – the artist searches for answers, or finds ecstatic knowledge.

Sanford has exhibited widely in New York and Tokyo.