For more than two decades, Los Angeles native Sanford Biggers has been developing a singular body of work that is deeply informed by African American history and traditions. Sanford Biggers: Codeswitch, the first survey of quilt-based works by the New York-based interdisciplinary artist, features over fifty pieces that seamlessly weave together references to contemporary art, urban culture, sacred geometry, and more.
Biggers’s engagement with quilts dates to 2009, when he was commissioned by Hidden City Philadelphia to produce a work for the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a stop on the Underground Railroad. As the artist researched the history of the Underground Railroad, he was intrigued by the long-debated narrative that quilts doubled as signposts along escape routes throughout the nineteenth century. Inspired by those stories, Biggers created his first quilt-based works.
The exhibition’s title, Codeswitch, refers to both the artist’s quilt series, known as the Codex series, as well as to the idea of code-switching: shifting from one linguistic code to another depending on social context. The Codex series includes mixed-media paintings and sculptures done directly on or made from pre-1900 antique quilts. This process, like linguistic code-switching, recognizes the plurality of language, as the quilts signal their original creator’s intent as well as the new layers of meaning given to them through Biggers’s artistic interventions.
Sanford Biggers: Codeswitch was co-organized by Rivers Institute for Contemporary Art & Thought, New Orleans, and the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, and overseen by Andrea Andersson (Founding Director and Chief Curator, Rivers Institute) and Sergio Bessa (Curator, Bronx Museum). The exhibition at CAAM is curated by Rivers Institute and is the first project in a multi-year collaboration between CAAM and Rivers Institute.
Exhibition Dates: July 28, 2021 - January 23, 2022
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