The Phillips Collection Presents Sanford Biggers Mosaic

By Editorial Team on October 19, 2021
Sanford Biggers working in his studio. Photo courtesy of the artist.
On View: October 16, 2021 – January 2, 2022

As part of its centennial celebrations, The Phillips Collection presents Mosaic by Sanford Biggers, the 30th project of the museum’s ongoing Intersections contemporary art series. Drawing from the museum’s permanent collection, including Gee’s Bend quilts and a number of European modernist sculptures, Biggers will produce a new body of work—a three-dimensional quilt, a marble sculpture, and a floor piece made with sand—bringing together old traditions and current multi-media practices. The installation will be on view from October 16, 2021, to January 2, 2022, and will be accompanied by an audio-visual performance in December.

“Sanford’s art communicates and intentionally complicates histories, identities, belief systems, and aesthetics only to reflect the inherent diversity and complexities of humankind and its cultural heritage,” notes Vesela Sretenovic, Cross-departmental Director for Contemporary Art, Innovation, and Partnerships. “His work speaks to global art history and to today’s socio-political and economic events, enveloping past and present, and the sacred and profane.”

In Mosaic, Biggers’s primary engagement with the permanent collection will be through five Gee’s Bend quilts—created by Mary Lee Bendolph, Aolar Mosley, Arlonzia Pettway, Malissia Pettway, and Lucy T. Pettway—that the Phillips recently acquired. Intrigued by the history of the quilts from the insulated African American community in Alabama, as well as with their rich geometric patterns, colors, and rhythm, Biggers started making his own quilts in 2009. For the Phillips, he will create a three-dimensional sculptural quilt that integrates the patterns and palette of the Phillips’s quilts. In addition, he will design a site-specific floor installation made with sand that incorporates the colors of the quilts, generating vibrant visuals where past and present meet.

“The quilts of Gee’s Bend are the first quilts to enter our collection. It is wonderful that they have sparked Sanford’s imaginative creations that invite another look at the history of African American quilt-making. This kind of cross-cultural dialogue is a key component of The Phillips Collection,” says Vradenburg Director and CEO Dorothy Kosinski.

In an adjacent gallery, Biggers will riff on sculptural works from the collection by artists including August Rodin, Pablo Picasso, A. R. Penck, and Markus Lupertz, among others, and create a large hybrid figure in marble that merges the formal and expressionist aspects of European modernism with the narrative elements of African art, bringing another layer of cultural intersectionality.

In addition to Mosaic’s rich visuals, the project will feature an audio-dance performance in collaboration with Biggers’s band Moon MedicinThe performance, scheduled for mid-December, will present dancers and musicians performing on the sand floor. As such, this project establishes a double intersection of audio and visual aspects of art.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Sanford Biggers (b. 1970) was raised in Los Angeles and currently lives and works in Harlem. His artistic practice integrates audio-visual installation, sculpture, drawing, video, music, and performance to create diverse artworks that invite synchronicity of different histories, cultures, identities, and religions.

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 2020 and the Rome Prize in Visual Arts in 2017. His most recent presentations include the solo exhibition Codeswitch organized by The Bronx Museum of the Arts (2020–21), as well as his large-scale sculpture Oracle at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Other solo exhibitions include the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2018); the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2016); the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (2012); and the Brooklyn Museum (2011), among others. His recent group exhibitions include the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2017), the Barnes Foundation (2017), and The Phillips Collection (2020). Biggers’s work is held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Walker Center, Minneapolis; the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC.

The Phillips Collection is located at 1600 21st Street, NW.