Sanford Biggers creates objects and environments informed by sources as diverse as Eastern religions, African American vernacular culture, and the rituals of the African Diaspora. He crafts situations in which Hip-Hop can merge with Buddhism and seemingly incongruous ideals find equal footing.
Biggers points to a teenage experience while growing up in Los Angeles as his earliest recollection of an intersection between Asian and African-American culture: wearing slip-on karate shoes for break-dancing. From this tenuous connection, Biggers became increasingly aware of meaningful philosophical links between the two cultures. Such ideals took hold in his artistic practice during the period in the early 1990s when Biggers lived in Nagoya, Japan. There the artist witnessed a true confluence of cultural expression, drawing connections between Hip-Hop, Buddhism, Shinto, break-dancing, sand-painted mandalas, graffiti, jazz, martial arts, and the rituals associated with each of these practices.
This exhibition, entitled both/and not either/or, unites recent objects, installations and video works. Working with common materials and objects, Biggers creates a quasi-domestic environment – a bed, a framed picture, a tunic, a piano – that gains power via interaction with the viewer. Biggers states, “The performative aspect of my work is usually the ritual use of the sculptural object…the viewing experience is no longer passive, but active.” Accompanying these objects are two newly produced video works resulting from Biggers’ 2003 artist-in-residency in Japan. Biggers offers a contemplative environment in which to experience these video works, which depict the artist participating in derived versions of Japanese rituals, specifically a Buddhist bell ceremony and a Sumo retirement ceremony. He infuses each of these traditional activities with certain indicators and sensibilities taken from Hip-Hop culture and Rastafarian roots.
Sanford Biggers lives and works in New York. He graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999. His work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions at such venues as The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2003), Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey (2003), Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas (2003), Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2002), Trafo Gallery, Budapest, Hungary(2002), Berkeley Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley (2002) and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2001). Biggers participated in the Rosenthal Center’s inaugural exhibition Somewhere Better than this Place in 2003 and is also featured in the upcoming traveling exhibition Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo Kuti organized by the New Museum, New York and arriving at the CAC in Winter of 2004.