At Brooklyn Museum, Sanford Biggers Explores Symbols of Race in America

Brooklyn, NY—The Sanford Biggers exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum is described as an “introspective.” It’s a fitting characterization, as the seemingly disparate works in the show had to have been created by an artist with an active imagination. But “Sweet Funk” does have a unifying thread, the 13 pieces probe how legacies and symbols of race have informed contemporary America.

“Cheshire Cat” (below) a plexiglass LED lit sculpture, for example, references the stereotypical behavior of African Americans who appear in minstrel shows.

Exploring the gallery is a puzzling, pleasing adventure, with each installation providing a bit of insight into how Biggers’s mind works.

“Sanford Biggers: Sweet Funk—An Introspective” is on view through this weekend, Sept. 23, 2011 to Jan. 8, 2012.

All photos by Arts Observer

The 13 works in the Biggers show were created between 2002 and 2009. Top of page, “Blossom,” 2007 (steel, zoopoxy, silk leaves, wood, piano, bench, with MIDI sound system) “incorporates references ranging from lynchings to Buddha’s enlightenment under the bodhi tree.”

Biggers enhanced the profile of a found Martin Luther King Jr. bust so that the altered object casts the shadow of President Barack Obama: “Passage,” 2009 (wax pomade, beeswax, house paint, spotlight).

From left, “Seen,” 2009 (video still, digital chromogenic photograph); “Bound,” 2009 (digital chromogenic photograph, triptych).

Detail of “Seen,”2009.

“Lotus,” 2007 (etched glass).

Detail of “Lotus,” which reveals that the 24 petals of the work are diagrams of slave ship cargo holds showing the configuration of human cargo.

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