Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Sandlin’s family immigrated to the United States in 1972. Sandlin earned a B.A. in fine arts at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, in 1979 and moved to the Lower East Side of New York City where he continues to work. He has received grants from the Pollock Krasner Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Penny McCall Foundation, among others. He was recently a Fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, where he began working on Belfaust, the final book in A Sinner’s Progress. Sandlin is an instructor in printmaking and book arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York and was the 2007-2008 Lamar Dodd Professorial Chair at the University of Georgia.
David Sandlin: "I have been painting, printmaking, and creating installations professionally since I moved to New York from Alabama in 1980. Since 1986 I have also taught at the School of Visual Arts, where I teach printmaking and am the thesis coordinator in the MFA program Illustration as Visual Essay.
"My art first appeared in New York on the streets of the Lower East Side, in the form of hand-screened political posters and prints advertising local art and music events. In 1983, I joined the Gracie Mansion Gallery and was affiliated with it until it closed. I have also been affiliated with Billy Shire Fine Art in Los Angeles and the Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago. I have had solo shows of my work worldwide, most recently at Printed Matter and Desert Island bookstores in New York and at Penn State University. I’m currently in group shows in Paris, Beijing, and New York.
"My drawings and comics have appeared in RAW, Blab!, Strappazin, The Ganzfeld, The New Yorker, and many other publications, including in Houghton-Mifflin’s 2009 and 2012 Best American Comics, edited by Charles Burns and Françoise Mouly, respectively.
"Since I began my professional career as an artist in the 1980s, visual narrative, usually nonlinear, has been a core component of my work. I’ve used it as a structural device to build content and express ideas while still being able to experiment with form. As a printmaker as well as a painter, this focus has led me to make a lot of books.
"In 1988, with the help of my employer, the School of Visual Arts, I published my first artist’s book, Land of 1,000 Beers. Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly saw it and invited me to contribute to their iconic magazine, RAW. Land of 1,000 Beers also resulted in a grant from Nexus Press, in Atlanta, to make my next book, Burning Ring of Fire. Around this time I also received a Penny McCall Foundation grant for painting and a Swann Award for Caricature and Cartoon.
"Burning Ring of Fire (1992) earned me a grant from the New York Foundation of the Arts, the first of four I have received over the past 20 years. Most of them were awarded for my work on A Sinner’s Progress, a seven-volume series of artist’s books that I started producing in 1995 while finishing up a book for MTV, You May Already Be a Sinner.
"During the 1990s, I worked steadily on the book series and on accompanying paintings and installations, which were exhibited in solo shows in Europe, Australia, Japan, and the U.S. With the birth of my son in 1999, the focus of my painting skewed to personal history and reflection, but I continued to work on A Sinner’s Progress.
"In 2006, I had my first retrospective in my native Ireland, at the Butler Gallery in Kilkenny. That year also saw the publication of two volumes of A Sinner’s Progress by Fantagraphics, Swamp Preacher and An Alphabetical Ballad of Carnality, a luridly illustrated abecedarium in rhyme.
"In 2007, I was awarded a Pollock-Krasner grant, which helped me complete a series of four large-scale oil paintings and to construct a large video installation. Also in 2007, I was offered the Lamar Dodd Chair of Art, which took me to Athens, Georgia, for a year, where I had the time and resources to finish my painting cycle and work on the last book of A Sinner’s Progress, Slumburbia, a silkscreened book that folds out to be over 27 feet long.
"In 2009, AA Bronson of Printed Matter, in New York, showed Slumburbia for the first time in a group show he curated at the Basel Art Fair. Since then the volumes of A Sinner’s Progress have been exhibited extensively and are now in a number of private collections and libraries, including NYU’s Fales Library, Stanford University, Wellesley College, the Spencer Collection of the New York Public Library, and the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies.
"In 2010–11, I was honored to be a Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers in the New York Public Library, where I conducted research and started sketches for my first graphic novel, Belfaust. While not technically a part of A Sinner’s Progress, the book pulls the seven earlier volumes together as a narrative whole.
"As I worked on Belfaust, I did a side project for the Swiss comics magazine Strapazin about the terrible toll taken by the mortgage crisis in the United States, which ultimately became Mort-Gage, recently published by Le Dernier Cri in France and featured in the upcoming 2012 Best American Comics. The style of the book was inspired by my research at NYPL, where I had access to the excellent Spencer Collection. Here I was able to pore over the exquisite woodblock prints of Taiso Yoshitoshi, which also inspired my latest obsession, 76 Manifestations of American Destiny, for which I am applying for a Guggenheim Foundation grant." —David Sandlin, 2012
Location: New York City