Multimedia artist Sanford Biggers
is an ardent storyteller. While spoken word is not his medium of
choice, his artworks communicate histories, allegories, and rituals through
surfaces laden with semiotics. In his current show
at David Castillo Gallery
continues his tale of the transformative power of the object and its ability to
effect cultural and spiritual change.
Inspired by America’s history of craft and
conflict, Biggers uses quilts from the antebellum South as backdrops for
paintings that cover the gallery’s walls. Similar blankets were used as tools
on the Underground Railroad, their carefully chosen geometries and color
schemes indicating whether a home doubled as a safe haven. Biggers layers his
timeworn canvases with paint, embroidery, and found textiles to emphasize the
object’s cultural importance and to inject contemporary perspectives.
In The Pasts They Brought With Them and Incognito, fabric
are sutured together or spill from the rectangular limits of the blanket, and
ghostly painted figures push against the pieced-together patterns, suggesting
invisible histories. In Cheshire (Guapa),Biggers reconstitutes two textiles in the form of a wide,
toothy grin that simultaneously alludes to the clever Lewis Carroll character
and African American stereotypes propagated in 19th-century minstrel shows. Biggers’s
alterations reveal the object as reliquary: a place where stories and
perceptions amass and interact beyond the limitations of linear time.
In a similar way, the artist uses the motif of a mandala, a
circular Buddhist symbol that acts as a gateway between heaven and earth, as a
jumping-off point for Mandala of the B-Bodhisattva II. The
patterned floor installation fuses the visual language of the sacred sign with
the size and surface of a dance floor that might be found in a hip-hop club.
The result is a layering of performative rituals that envelop past and present,
physical and spiritual. Here, the sublime and the everyday meld, inviting a
synchronicity between disparate identities, cultures, and religions.