Sanford Biggers: Codeswitch
Sanford Biggers: Codeswitch is the first survey of quilt-based works by the New York-based interdisciplinary artist. The solo show features over 50 quilt-based works by the artist that seamlessly weave American history into a broader context of global traditions and styles.
For over two decades, Biggers has been developing a singular body of work that is deeply informed by African American history and traditions, and sustains a rich dialog with contemporary art on a national and international level, referencing urban culture, the body, sacred geometry, and American symbolism.
The title of the Bronx Museum exhibition, Codeswitch, refers to both the artists’ quilt series known as the Codex series and to the idea of code-switching itself, or shifting from one linguistic code to another depending on the social context. The Codex series includes mixed media paintings and sculptures done directly on or made from pre-1900 antique quilts. This process, like linguistic code-switching, recognizes language plurality, as the quilts signal their original creator’s intent as well as the new layers of meaning given to them through Biggers’s artistic intervention.
The tradition of quilt-making holds a significant place in American culture and has special resonance in African American communities as witnessed in the quilts by the Gee’s Bend — a small, insulated African American community in Alabama — that has produced hundreds of quilts from the 19th century to the present. That tradition has been upheld by contemporary artists today, such as Faith Ringgold, Sam Gilliam and Biggers.
The catalog, co-published with Yale University Press, features essays by the curators Sergio Bessa and Andrea Andersson along with guest writers, documenting the entire series of quilts produced by the artist. The book includes a forward by Gregory Tate and a 20-page graphic work by John Jennings in collaboration with David Brame and Esperanza Bey.
Published by Yale University Press.