The body politic is at play in Sanford Biggers’s latest solo show at Marianne Boesky Gallery, from the effect of plush textiles—puffed, slit, sculpted, layered, frayed—to marble statues which subvert both Greco-Roman and African figurative sculpture alike. Though Biggers’s oeuvre spans a wide range of media, from painting to inflatable sculptures to installation works, the through-line in his work has always been the fraught and malleable nature of historical narrative. “Chimeras,” his newest series, explores the manner in which sculpture has been sundered from its historical contexts: the Greco-Roman figure in Cannigula (2020), in contrapposto pose, arm akimbo, strains with the effort of holding up the oversize African mask it wears. Elevated upon cedar blocks that recall shipping containers as much as plinths, the chimeras draw attention to the labor of making as well as the cross-currents of trade and transport that have shaped art history.
The wall-based textile pieces—a staple of Biggers’s repertoire for two decades now—work across registers, from the layered frays of The Charlatan (2020) to the illusion of architectural vaults through overlaid translucencies in Ecclesiasties 1 (KJV) (2020), to the new work Kubrick’s Rube (2020), which blossoms geometrically out like a buckyball from a corner. In whence/ wince (2020), four arrow-like slits are incised from a quilt which hangs upon the wall, falling, rippling and inverted, upon the gallery floor. The paired words “whence" (from where) and “wince” (to flinch from pain) raise issues specific to the piece and also address the larger problem of the fraught-ness of history: an antique quilt is butchered for the work just as historical styles are “chopped and screwed” throughout the exhibition.
Sanford Biggers, Orpheus, 2020. Antique quilt, assorted textiles, wood 82 x 83 1/2 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen. © Sanford Biggers. Photo credit: Lance Brewer