Painter and Harlem resident Tom Sanford set the task upon himself to paint 99 bottles of beer, about one a day, which were given to him by a friend or fellow artist visiting his studio. The small-scale acrylic on wood depictions were painted quickly, with Sanford using a loose, gestural style well-suited for the task, with varied backgrounds from patterns and abstract marks to gold and silver leaf surfaces. What may be just as important as the actual painting is the communal aspect of the work, with the shared experience between the painter and the provider of the beer potentially leading to a dialogue about art, life and the ritual of imbibing suds. In the past, Sanford has documented other aspects of society or his surroundings, including the most prominent people that died around the world in 2012 and residents of Harlem that Sanford interacts with in his neighborhood.
Although many of the beers Sanford has rendered include familiar ones like Budweiser, Becks and Heineken, some obscure craft beers like New Belgium’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Otter Creek’s Couch Surfer and DuClaw’s Sweet Baby Jesus make one want to sample them to see what they are all about. He also captures a moment in time, where the explosion of microbreweries around the world has given rise to a new crop of ales, pilsners, lagers and stouts, not to mention the ubiquitous IPA’s. While Sanford documented the project on Instagram, the works should be viewed in its entirety, where the scope of the project and the physicality of the paint can truly be appreciated. Trying to find one of your favorites among the array of adult beverages is another interactive aspect, and although my beloved Hoegaarden White wasn’t present, I was pleased to see Newcastle Brown make an appearance.
Tom Sanford, “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” Gitler &___, August 2 — August 30, 2017.