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Image of Monument to the Constitution of the United States

Sandow Birk , b. Oct 26, 1962
In collaboration with Paul Mullowney

Monument to the Constitution of the United States

48 x 63 in. (122 x 160 cm)

Medium and Support: Direct gravure etching on nine plates
Credit Line: Purchased as the gift of David and Pamela Hornik (P 2015)
Accession Number: 2016.24


During an eight-week artist residency in Washington, DC, Sandow Birk marveled at the constant references to the nation’s past—most particularly, the events of 1776, constantly underscored by tour guides dressed in tricornered hats and powdered wigs. He also found himself particularly fascinated by the enduring potency of one of the nation’s foundational documents: the Constitution. This living document continues to influence the discussions in the corridors of the White House, the Supreme Court, and Congress, determining the course of American politics and culture.

Long captivated by the intersection of art and text in graffiti and graphic novels, Birk pondered creating an illustrated version of the Constitution. The monumental significance of this document also reminded him of The Triumphal Arch, or Arch of Maximilian , I by German artist Albrecht Dürer, an immense work printed from 195 woodblocks on 36 sheets. Destined for the walls of European courts, this propaganda piece celebrated the distinguished lineage, vast realm, and glorious achievements of the patron who commissioned it, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (r. 1486–1519).

In his own imaginary monument—one of several that explore and challenge American institutions—Birk here combines the gargantuan scale and elaborate detail of Dürer’s masterwork with the satirical edge of the celebrated nineteenth-century American political cartoonist Thomas Nast.

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