Tom Sanford’s latest solo exhibition, “Greetings from Harlem” is on show at London’s Palm Tree Gallery until the 18th of April. In this exhibition, Sanford introduces us to his neighbourhood: the people and places of a rapidly changing small corner of Harlem.
This new body of work continues Sanford’s exploration of the American Low Brow with masterful painting techniques that borrow equally from the pages of art history texts and from comic books. His paintings, that seem to simultaneously celebrate and criticize American excess, explore the artist’s ambivalence to his national culture. Having worked his way through all manner of popular culture, from hip hop to celebrity culture to news and politics, this time Sanford turns his attention to the very local: his neighbourhood.
With a style that is both lurid and meticulous, Sanford presents 7 genre paintings of the people and places he encounters in his daily life. In “A Bird in the Hand Beats Three in the Hole,” three friends and a bartender gather at Sanford’s local bar, Harlem Public, where one appears to be over-served. The bird in Mark’s hand, the garish beer labels written on the blackboard, the t-shirts and playing cards all reveal clues about the people and their relationship. “Julia and Trevor” is a portrait of the eccentric couple who live across the street from the artist and spend hours every day on their porch tending to their miniature garden, chain-smoking cigarettes and talking to everyone who passes by ranging from the Franciscan friars who live around the corner, to children on their way to the playground, neighbours walking their dogs and the drug-dealers who set up shop outside the corner store. Sanford’s paintings are also complimented by 10 drawings, featuring singular portrayals of some of the characters who populate these paintings.
“For all the warts and all relentlessness of his artistic gaze, there’s something magical about Tom Sanford’s Harlem. His own generosity of spirit, however slightly curdled, is well matched by the people and spirit he has found, fostered, and fuelled in his adopted home.” - Mark Jannot (Sanford’s neighbour who is a writer, friend, drinking buddy and now painting subject).
Sanford is a Harlem based artist who’s work has been exhibited extensively in museums, galleries and and art fairs around the world.
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