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RING THE ALARM…A Conversation with Sanford Biggers & Renee Cox
Sanford Biggers’ work is an interplay of narrative, perspective and history that speaks to current social, political and economic happenings while also examining the contexts that bore them. His diverse practice positions him as a collaborator with the past through explorations of often overlooked cultural and political narratives from American history. Working with antique quilts that echo rumors of their use as signposts on the Underground Railroad, he engages these legends and contributes to this narrative by drawing and painting directly onto them. In response to ongoing occurrences of police brutality against Black Americans, Biggers’ BAM series is composed of bronze sculptures recast from fragments of wooden African statues that have been anonymized through dipping in wax and then ballistically ‘resculpted’. Following a residency as a 2017 American Academy Fellow in Rome, the artist recently began working in marble. Drawing on and playing with the tradition of working in this medium, Biggers creates hybridized forms that transpose, combine and juxtapose classical and historical subjects to create alternative meanings and produce what he calls “Chimeras”. As creative director and keyboardist, he fronts Moon Medicin, a multimedia concept band that straddles visual art and music with performances staged against a backdrop of curated sound effects and video. Moon Medicin performed at Open Spaces Kansas City in October 2018 and at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in April 2019.
Sanford Biggers (b. 1970) was raised in Los Angeles and currently lives and works in New York City. He is the recipient of numerous awards; in 2020 he was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship; in 2018 he received the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award and in 2017 he was presented the 2017 Rome Prize in Visual Arts. He has had solo exhibitions at 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 work has been shown in several institutional group exhibitions including at the Menil Collection (2008) and the Tate Modern (2007), and also recent exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2017) and the Barnes Foundation (2017). In 2018, Biggers was awarded the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award and in 2019 he was inducted into the New York Foundation for the Arts Hall of Fame. Biggers’ 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 D.C.; the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; and the Legacy Museum, Montgomery, among others.
The artist will have a museum solo exhibition titled Codeswitch dedicated to exhibiting over 60 quilt-based artworks at The Bronx Museum of the Arts (September 9, 2020 - January 24, 2021). The exhibition is organized by Bronx Museum Chief Curator Sergio Bessa and Chief Curator of the Visual Arts at the Contemporary Arts Center (New Orleans) Andrea Andersson. The exhibition will travel to California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA (March 2021) and Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans, LA (October 2021) and will be accompanied by a publication.
Renee CoxRenee Cox was born in Colgate, Jamaica in 1960. Renee Cox received her BA from Syracuse University, (Syracuse, NY) and MFA from the School of Visual Arts, (New York, NY). She was a participant in the Whitney Museum of American Art, Independent Study Program, (New York, NY). Her work has been included in solo and group exhibitions at prominent institutions to include Tate Liverpool (Liverpool, UK), The New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York, NY), Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, NY), and Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY) to name a few. She received the Artists Fellowship Award, New York Foundations for the Arts, The MacDowell Colony, (Petersborough, NY) and the Aaron Matalon Award, The National Gallery of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica) among others. She is an associate professor at Columbia University and has lectured at Yale College of Art (New Haven, CT), New York University (New York, NY) and Parsons School of Design (New York, NY) to name a few. She lives and works in Manhattan and Amagansett.Cox makes photographs, collages, and installations that draw on art history, fashion photography and popular culture. Her work invokes a critical vision of female sexuality, beauty, power and heroism through nudity, religious imagery and symbolism that inform her interdisciplinary process. She is most noted for her larger than life photographs of female bodies. She reexaminations the black female figure in the context of structures of power. Inspired by critical epochs and artistic styles, her works are often reimaginations of art history, ranging from the Italian Renaissance such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, to Cubism (Picasso), Modernism (Édouard Manet) to traditional West African Art (Dogon, Mali, Cross River section of Nigeria). Cox utilizes a mélange of photographic styles in the vein of fashion photographer Richard Avedon, German portrait photographer August Sander, as well as summoning Harlem Renaissance photographic practices, inspired by James Van Der Zee, Gordon Parks to the obscure ritualistic three-dimensional sculptural collages of Bettye Saar. Cox’s work is a celebration of the spectrum of the black female body. Her work challenges how women are seen respective to time, place and the intangible spaces between representation and reality. Instagram: @reneecoxstudio.
Cerebral Women, founded by Guild Hall trustee Phyllis Hollis, is an online marketing platform designed to promote emerging and mid-career artists of color and female artists. The weekly podcast, Cerebral Women Art Talks, is curated to offer art enthusiasts an intellectual journey into the visual art world and provides insights from various artists and the art professionals that feature them. https://www.cerebralwomen.com/about/ Instagram: @cerebral_women