Dark Star, New Works by Sanford Biggers
Dark Star, New Works by Sanford Biggersm, Eric Firestone Gallery, East Hampton, NY, July 6-July 22, 2013. A recent body of Biggers’ work has reflected on the journey of fugitives traveling the Underground Railroad through the deconstruction and repurposing of old quilts. In the book, Hidden in Plain View, historian Jacqueline Tobin and scholar Raymond Dobard show how certain quilt patterns, including a prominent one called the Charleston Code, were used to signal houses that would harbor fugitives along the Underground Railroad. It's a fascinating story that Sanford Biggers reprises in Black Star.
The book announcement summarizes the story: "In 1993, historian Jacqueline Tobin met African American quilter Ozella Williams amid piles of beautiful handmade quilts in the Old Market Building of Charleston, South Carolina. With the admonition to "write this down," Williams began to describe how slaves made coded quilts and used them to navigate their escape on the Underground Railroad. But just as quickly as she started, Williams stopped, informing Tobin that she would learn the rest when she was "ready." During the three years it took for Williams's narrative to unfold — and as the friendship and trust between the two women grew — Tobin enlisted Raymond Dobard, Ph.D., an art history professor and well-known African American quilter, to help unravel the mystery."
Dark Star pairs the quilt drawings with new works such as sculptures and cloud-shaped light boxes. This new collection plays with the fluid boundaries between craft and fine art, improvisation and logic, defacement and embellishment, and academia and oral history. Biggers’ use of ancient sacred geometry (inspired by his cousin, artist John Biggers), manipulated contemporary symbols and invented iconography tests the limits of signs—sometimes finding transcendence within the most shameful marks of our past. See installation views of the show here.
An internationally acclaimed, interdisciplinary artist, Biggers’ oeuvre often involves site-specific installations, paintings, photography, or musical performances, which explore American heritage and Afrodiasporic experiences. By incorporating dreamlike elements into his pieces, Biggers investigates the dialogue between traditional history and the magical realism of a past revisited from a contemporary landscape.
Sanford Biggers earned his B.A. from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA, and his M.F.A. from The Art Institute of Chicago, IL. He teaches at Columbia University and is an affiliate at the faculty at the Virginia Commonwealth University.