Sanford Biggers: Monique Meloche Gallery

By Quiles, Daniel | Artforum International, May 2016 | Go to article overview

Sanford Biggers: Monique Meloche Gallery


Quiles, Daniel, Artforum International


Sanford Biggers

MONIQUE MELOCHE GALLERY

Sanford Biggers's video BAM (For Michael), 2015, ostensibly documents a series of mediations to a new series of bronze figurines based on colorful wooden statuettes that the artist originally purchased from street vendors in Harlem. The figures were dipped in wax, shot repeatedly with a rifle and a shotgun, and then cast in bronze and given a black patina. The video captures the bullets hitting a male figurine, sending shards of wood flying into the air. Shot in the leg, the figure inevitably falls over. Each crack of the gun elicits a cut--shot for shot, as it were--and a shift in perspective: from close-ups of arms, legs, or head, to pulled-back views of the full body. Sometimes the sounds are edited so as to interrupt one another, literally rapid-fire; at other points, the audio is slowed down, with the video correspondingly decelerating to capture the bullets' destructive effects. The figurines' rigidity in the face of what is happening to them--a figuration without animation, and thus drained of humanity--provides an unsettling edge to the video.

For "The Pasts They Brought with Them," Biggers's first solo exhibition in Chicago, the artist juxtaposed two bodies of work, both from the series "BAM," 2015-. The bronze figurines BAM (For Michael) (the object from the aforementioned video) and BAM (For Sandra), both 2016, shared gallery space with the artist's more familiar quilt works, in which found textiles are cut and stitched into new amalgams and adorned with acrylic, spray paint, tar, glitter, and other materials. Biggers has previously connected these works with the mythic role of quilts in the history of the Underground Railroad. While their use has never been verified, according to many accounts quilts were hung from safe houses as surreptitious coded signals for runaway slaves on their journey north, their colors and folds communicating to the traveler whether he could stop for the night. Certainly Hat & Beard, 2016, which features a collaged image of the artist's own "slave ship lotus" design, is in direct conversation with the legacy of slavery and its correlation to the African American quilt-making tradition. A quite different set of associations is apparent, however, in DAGU, 2016, a quilt cut into a distinctive polygon that echoes Frank Stella's De la nada vida a la nada muerte (From Life Nothing to Death Nothing), 1965--a seminal work that demonstrated what Michael Fried called "deductive structure," in which the frame of the painting determines the pattern that constitutes the entire composition. …

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