Press Release  July 16, 2019

Illuminating American History through Sculpture: Sanford Biggers

Object Studies

Sanford Biggers, Infinite Tabernacle, 2017. HD video installation, dimensions variable, 4:26 minutes. Courtesy the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen. © Sanford Biggers.

Madison, Wis. – In his diverse practice, Sanford Biggers encourages meaningful dialogue around narratives in American history. On view at the Chazen Museum of Art June 28-Sept. 22, 2019, Sanford Biggers will display eight works from the artists’ BAM sculpture series, along with several “paintings” that the artists has created by altering antique quilts. The exhibition also includes a video installation to accompany the BAM sculptures.

Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago. 

Sanford Biggers, Pink Seated Warrior, 2017. Antique futon cover, various textiles, sequins, 58 x 39 inches.

“Sanford Biggers is in a category of his own as an artist, and that’s one of the reasons we are so thrilled to have his work here on the UW campus,” said Amy Gilman, Ph.D., director of the Chazen. “By illuminating–and questioning–the historical memory of certain traumatic moments in our country’s past, he is seeking a greater understanding of the forces that make such moments possible. His work encourages viewers to make up their own minds about what they see, which matches the Chazen’s own hopes for visitors to our museum.”

Biggers’ BAM series begins with his varied collection of wooden African sculptures. He coats each figure with a layer of wax, then takes it to a shooting range, where it is “sculpted” using various caliber firearms. The figures are then cast anew in bronze, giving them an elevated status as “power objects.” He renames each after a victim of brutality–in this exhibition sculptures are named after Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Terence Crutcher and Jordan Edwards–imparting idiosyncrasy into the newly revitalized figures. The multi-channel video installation Infinite Tabernacle features images of the original wooden figures being riddled with bullets, as well as the playback of the ballistic sculpting in reverse and at different speeds.

The exhibition will also feature several of Biggers’ quilt “paintings”. To create them, he acquires and alters antique quilts, calling the resulting artworks paintings. Each painting on view includes an image of an African figure; in two instances, the images directly represent the Seated Warrior sculpture that will be on display in the lobby. In contributing his own imagery to these often encoded patchwork quilts, Biggers, in effect, collaborates with the unknown quilters and forms a dialogue between them, himself, viewers, the past and present.

Sanford Biggers will be on view through June 28-Sept. 22, 2019, and like all Chazen Museum of Art exhibitions and programs, is free and open to the public. No tickets are required.

Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago

Sanford Biggers, BAM (for Terence), 2016. Bronze with black patina, 14 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches. Edition 1 of 3 + 1 AP, unique.

Sanford Biggers was organized for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis by Lisa Melandri, Executive Director. Support for the catalog is provided by the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.

Presentation at the Chazen Museum of Art is generously supported by the Brittingham Trust and by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Chazen Museum of Art makes its home between two lakes on the beautiful campus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Within walking distance of the state capitol, it sits squarely in the heart of a vibrant college town. Featuring one of the best views on campus, an art-filled bridge connects the historic Elvehjem building, built in 1970, with the Chazen building, built in 2011. This connection represents both a physical and intellectual joining of human art history and the most dynamic artistic explorers of today.

With a permanent collection of more than 22,000 objects, from vessels of ancient Greece to prints by Kara Walker, the Chazen is the second largest museum in Wisconsin. Two expansive buildings encompass 166,000 square feet, making it the largest museum in the Big Ten. More than 100,000 visitors come through the Chazen’s doors each year to enjoy the permanent collection and special exhibitions. Admission is free for all visitors and includes programs for students, families and community members, all provided with the museum’s unique brand of Wisconsin hospitality.

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