Sanford Biggers: Moon Medicine

Sanford Biggers, Seen, 2009, Video still, Digital C-print, 30 x 40 in. Courtesy the Artist and Michael Klein Arts, New York

Currently on view at Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum is a solo presentation of new work by internationally renowned, New York-based artist, Sanford Biggers. The work on view in the exhibition, entitled Moon Medicine, encompasses the breadth of Biggers’ practice. As he tells the SBCAF, “It is a thematic, multi-disciplinary exploration of past themes and new themes meant to broaden and complicate our read on American history.” In a recent video-recorded conversation between Biggers and CAF executive director, Miki Garcia, Biggers discusses his avoidance of artistic labels, such as “post black.” These labels are not rejected by the artist for the sake of radicalism but, rather, because he says that no matter how you mean it to sound, a label is always “predicated on there being an other.” Biggers further explains that he rejects labels even in his discussion of artistic medium, saying he’s “not interested in being a sculptor [or] a performance artist…I just make things.” Of his process, he says, “The more confused I am while making a piece now, the more successful it is to me regardless of what it ends up looking like.”

The recurring imagery of mandalas in Biggers’ work reflects a strong interest in Buddhism, the exploration of which is found in his past and current work. Biggers gained interest in the Buddhist tradition while living in Japan and traveling all over Asia years ago. Of the work he made upon returning to the US from Asia, Biggers says it became autobiographical in part—in the sense that he “fused some of what [he] had been studying and researching in terms of Buddhism, but also bringing in some things from my childhood, growing up in Los Angeles, and being a B-boy.”

Sanford Biggers, Constellation, 2009, Steel, Plexiglas, LED’s, Zoopoxy, cotton quilt, original printed cotton tile. Dimensions variable, Installation at Harvard University. Courtesy the Artist and Michael Klein Arts, New York, NY.

Biggers is a master of alluding labels, as we’ve learned, and the “elliptical” nature of his work (as Garcia refers to it), creates an open-ended dialog that spans a range of subjects from religious practices, to themes of racial tensions in the American South, to pop culture iconography. Moon Medicine will be on view through May 2, 2010.

Sanford Biggers lives and works in new York. He earned his BA at Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA and his MFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL. He has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally, including at Mary Goldman Gallery, Los Angeles; Tate Modern, London; Okinawa Museum, Okinawa, Japan; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and the 2002 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.