“Quadri ed Angeli” is the title of New York-based artist Sanford Biggers’ fourth solo exhibition with David Castillo Gallery in Miami Beach. The exhibition is focused on new quilt paintings and sculptural quilts. Sanford Biggers’ antique quilts feature in his practice as a lexicon of layered histories and symbols that examine the history of the United States and its legacy of enslavement and social inequity as well as sacred geometry, sampling and Buddhist Thangkas. The artist approaches these quilts as a collaborator with their original makers, reconfiguring materials to be cut, recombined, painted or collaged into repeating visual references. In this video, we attend the opening reception of the exhibition on December 7, 2019.
Sanford Biggers: Quadri ed Angeli / David Castillo Gallery, Miami Beach. December 7, 2019.
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Excerpt from the press release:
A multi-disciplinary artist, Biggers’ antique quilts feature in his practice as a lexicon of layered histories and symbols that examine the history of the United States and its legacy of enslavement and social inequity as well as sacred geometry, sampling and Buddhist Thangkas. The artist approaches these quilts as a collaborator with their original makers, reconfiguring materials to be cut, recombined, painted or collaged into repeating visual references. His quilt works are imbued with a mixture of recognizable imagery of constellation patterns or tree root systems alongside subtle silhouettes, symbols and gestures that could serve as navigation markers or imply (dis)embodied entities. Afro-futurism inflects these works with motifs of survival and transcendence. To this end, Biggers frames his exploration of these histories through the idea that “Harriet Tubman was an astronaut” for her role in leading enslaved peoples from “the south to the north by navigating the stars.”
Biggers’ practice is well interlaced with the syncretic ethos of contemporary art. In addition to the complex networks of historical references which course through his work, the artist traces connections to antiquity, cultural forms from beyond the West and spiritual traditions from Buddhism to sacred geometry. The striking aesthetics of tilework, intricate patterning, and the meticulous paper-folding of origami are sources that he absorbs into his practice.
Biggers traverses and flattens history. His works often bring the past into contact with the present, bridging the violence and activism of the past into a dialogue around the sustained and repeated impacts of this history and its evolution into our contemporary moment. He treats the history of art in similar terms. Biggers’ quilt paintings and sculptures make direct citation to the expressive geometries used in the works of post-war artists including Al Loving, Bridget Riley, Frank Stella, and his own late cousin, artist and proto Afro-futurist John T. Biggers. Sanford Biggers not only draws upon the practices of well-established figures from across the narratives of art history but also makes room for notable but perhaps overlooked contributors such as the makers, often female, of the original quilts themselves. He positions himself within this timeline as an artistic descendant; an inheritor of these stylistic and thematic threads while the objects themselves become palimpsests for a future ethnography.
In Quadri ed Angeli, Biggers reveals his deeper artistic vision by accumulating meaning in a tight choreography between visual references, connecting threads which reveal the affinities between seemingly disparate peoples, regions and times as they unravel from the past to the present and beyond.
Sanford Biggers was born (1970) and raised in Los Angeles, and currently lives and works in New York. He was awarded the 2017 Rome Prize in Visual Arts. He has had solo exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2018), the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2016), the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (2012) and the Brooklyn Museum (2011), among many others. His work has been shown in important institutional group exhibitions including the Menil Collection (2008) and the Tate Modern (2007), as well as recent exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2017) and the Barnes Foundation (2017). Biggers’ work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Everson Museum, Syracuse; the Bass Museum, Miami Beach; the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington D.C.; the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; and the Legacy Museum, Montgomery, among many others. His work is also included in major international private and corporate collections such as UBS. Sanford Biggers’ work has been the subject of nearly twenty museum group and solo exhibitions in 2019, including ICA Boston, Tufts University, Phillips Collection (D.C.), Stanford University, American Academy in Rome and numerous others.
The artist will have a museum solo exhibition of his quilt-based artworks at The Bronx Museum of the Arts (April 7- September 6, 2020) Codeswitch. The exhibition is organized by Bronx Museum Chief Curator Sergio Bessa and Chief Curator of the Visual Arts at the Contemporary Arts Center (New Orleans) Andrea Andersson. The exhibition will travel and be accompanied by a publication.