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Exhibition Art in Action: Herblock and Fellow Artists Respond to Their Times

Sandow Birk (b. 1964). Malignant Neoplasms (Cancer) from the Ten Leading Causes of Death in America series, 2005. Etching. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. © Sandow Birk. Courtesy of the Artist and Koplin Del Rio Gallery, used by permission (021.00.00)

Leading Causes of Death in America

Sandow Birk’s darkly satirical etching series takes inspiration from the work of realist painter/printmaker George Bellows and the Ashcan School practice of portraying the lives of everyday people. Here we see a harried office worker who is smoking while typing at a computer. Birk enhances the sense of stress and pressed time with surrounding clutter including file folders, post-it notes, a cell phone or pager, and fast food meal of a burger and french fries. The title, Malignant Neoplasms (Cancer), suggests a sinister future.