“What I want to do is code-switch. To have there be layers of history and politics, but also this heady, arty stuff—inside jokes, black humor—that you might have to take a while to research if you want to really get it.”—Sanford Biggers
Sanford Biggers (b. 1970) is a Harlem-based artist working in various media including painting, sculpture, video, and performance. He describes his practice as “code-switching”—mixing disparate elements to create layers of meaning—to account for his wide-ranging interests. This catalogue focuses on a series of repurposed quilts (many made in the 19th century) that embodies this interest in mixture. Informed by the significance of quilts to the Underground Railroad, Biggers transforms the quilts into new works using materials such as paint, tar, glitter, and charcoal to add his own layers of codes, whether they be historical, political, or purely artistic. Insightful essays survey Biggers’s career, his art in relation to music, and the history upon which the series draws. Also featured is a short yet powerful graphic essay by an award-winning illustrator that introduces the layered meanings inherent in the art and craft of quilting.