Tom Sanford – American Garbage

American Garbage print by Tom Sanford
American Garbage, Tom Sanford, archival pigment print, approx. 20 x 17 inches,
signed and numbered edition of 15, 2015.

NOWhere Limited is pleased to announce the exclusive release of a new, signed and numbered archival pigment print edition by Tom Sanford: American Garbage

This high-resolution archival pigment print measures approximately 20 x 17 inches. The artist’s signed and numbered edition of 15 is printed on acid-free paper.

About this piece, Tom says:

Modified Master Paintings (The Rape of the Masters)

These paintings are the first in a new body of my work for which I have commissioned Chinese commercial painters to make reproductions of canonical works of western painting. I then have them shipped to my New York studio and alter them by painting over some, or almost all of, the original image.

The project was inspired by a visit to an exhibition of the work of Asger Jorn while visiting Copenhagen, Denmark in 2014. I was particularly interested in Jorn’s “Institute for Comparative Vandalisme” in which he modified or disfigured department store paintings as well as 19th-century salon paintings. It occurred to me that the availability of high quality but affordable reproductions of paintings from the Chinese commercial painters provided an opportunity to “modify” and attempt to “improve” any painting that one could find an image of on the internet. Certainly, in the case of Jorn’s paintings, the “modifications” were much more exciting, and to my eye much better, than the original paintings that he had started with. But the paintings Jorn started with weren’t all that good. It would be a greater challenge, and of more interest to me, to try to “modify” and perhaps “improve” some of the greatest paintings of the western canon. I selected a seven of my personal favorites and commissioned the Chinese commercial painters to reproduce them at 1:1 scale to the originals.

I think my interests and intentions might not have been the same as Jorn’s and the Situationists artists as his modifications seem intended to use painting language to point out that avant-guard provocation is a convention, and even a joke. At this point the avant-guard is quite clearly an antiquated notion, having been ridiculed for decades in popular culture, and not really my concern at all. I thought of the project as less intellectual and more emotional. What would it feel like to work into a great painting? To deface (and probably ruin) a work that one has the greatest respect for? What would happen when my starting point was a complete and probably perfect painting?

I found that it difficult to start these paintings. Usually, when I start a painting I have a clear idea of where I want to end that painting. This was not the case here. With these paintings the first move was to mess up the painting, then react to that and mess it up some more with more mistakes, and continue on that trajectory until hopefully, the painting would become a new and different thing, not just a vandalized version of the original. At the same time as wishing the painting to be a new painting, I wanted to leave just enough of the old painting so that the viewer could recognize the original starting point of the image.

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that the problem of reworking these masterworks caused me real anxiety, or compounded my usual anxieties about money and family and other real-life concerns. I found myself sleeping less, drinking more and just being a little more grumpy than I usually am. I came to the conclusion that it was foolish to aspire to improve on these works, but I could hope to modernize them, rework them with a chaotic aesthetic that seemed more contemporary. I did not try to have a seamless integration of my modifications (as I sometimes try to do in my Mao paintings). Instead, I varied my style and painting approach to make it apparent that something here was old and something was new, but perhaps it is not immediately obvious exactly what I painted and what remains. In the end, the paintings are aggressive and chaotic in places but also have moments of care and consideration. I believe that these paintings reflect my anxiety and ambivalence about modifying and/or vandalizing the Masters. I am still digesting these works and what I have accomplished here…

Tom Sanford is a New York-based artist whose work is exhibited around the world. His paintings, which range from historical works depicting celebrity assassinations to portraits of gangsta rappers and teen pop tarts to elaborate cosmologies weaved together from Hollywood movies, reflect a deep ambivalence about the American cultural condition.

For more information about Tom Sanford, please consult his website at:

See all available art by: Tom Sanford

Filed under:   Sold out