This week the Speed Art Museum opens hisSanford Biggers: Code Switchexhibition. The exhibition is a survey of the quilting works of the New York artist. The exhibition will feature over 30 of his quilt-based works. The show will run from March 18 to June 26.
Sanford’s Greatest is an artist who has built his portfolio around African-American history and traditions. Biggers maintains a link with the major issues of contemporary art that exist nationally and internationally. Her work references urban culture, the body, sacred geometry and American symbolism.
“The title of the exhibition, code switch, refers both to the series of quilts by the artist known as the Codex series and to the very idea of code-switching, that is, the passage from one linguistic code to another depending on the social context. The Codex series includes mixed media paintings and sculptures made directly on or from antique quilts. This process, like linguistic code-switching, acknowledges linguistic plurality, as the quilts signal the intent of their original creator as well as the new layers of meaning given to them by Biggers’ artistic intervention.
“Sanford Biggers’ quilt-based work is deeply influenced by his appreciation of quilts and their original makers, acknowledging the multi-layered stories they have taken on over the decades,” said Scott Erbes, Curator of Decorative Arts and of Speed’s design. “His masterful interventions add new meanings and generate new dialogues with this iconic American art form.”
LEO managed to grab a few words from Speed’s Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, Scott Erbes, via email.
He spoke to us about the continued relationship between Speed and Biggers and how local audiences will find a connection to Biggers’ work.
LEO: Sanford Biggers is one of the most important contemporary artists working today. Tell me about how important it is for The Speed Museum to have its work.
Scott Erbes: We are delighted to be able to share Sanford Biggers: Code Switch with our visitors. The artist’s quilt-based works that make up the exhibition exemplify her insightful and expansive engagement with, among other subjects, African-American history and culture, Buddhism, African ritual sculptures, and the contributions of quilt makers. American quilts to the country’s visual culture.
code switch continues the museum’s relationship with Biggers and his practice, building on the work featured in our 2017 exhibition, Southern Accent: Searching for the American South in Contemporary Artthe acquisition in 2020 of his video installation,Infinite Tabernacle (Triad). Infinite Tabernacle (Triad) will have its public premiere in our galleries parallel to the code switchexposure.
What issues does Biggers raise in his work that you think Speed audiences will connect with?
I think so many people have experienced quilts and their evocative power – memories of family quiltmakers or quilts passed down from generation to generation – that Biggers quilt-based works, which begin with quilts old, have an immediate familiarity. Biggers both encourages and confuses this sense of familiarity through his masterful interventions. These take us to many places and emotional experiences: works that reference the horrors of racial injustice, works that happily embrace hip-hop culture, works that evoke the contemplative traditions of Buddhism, and more.
Talk about how a show like this puts speed in a position to host other shows of this level?
As an accredited art museum, the Speed has built a strong national reputation for hosting major exhibitions such as Ebony G. Patterson…while the dew is still on the roses…, Andy Warhol: Revelation, Southern Accent: Searching for the American South in Contemporary Art, Women Artists in the Age of Impressionismand many more. Remembrance Witness Promise, the 2021 exhibit that highlighted the murder of Breonna Taylor and the subsequent movement for black lives in the community and globally featured local artists as well as recognized black artists and artists of color across the world. National level. This exhibition, along with the Museum’s long-standing commitment to community engagement and raising the voice of artists, opened the door to speed in representing other great living contemporary artists, such as Sanford Biggers.
Will the artist come? What other events are planned around his exhibition.
Speed After Hours takes place this Friday, March 18 with a keynote from Sanford Biggers at 7 p.m. The event will also feature cash bar and food from Wiltshire, a Lipstick Wars Poetry Slam, music from Kiana and the Sun Kings. Get tickets here.