Cultured Magazine

April/May 2016

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Page 154 of 243

"My career has been devoted to touching on aspects of African-American history and culture that aren't necessarily well known facts." —Sanford Biggers 153 Cheshire (hanging/orange), 2010 the rash of police brutality against black men and women, the Black Lives Matter movement and the media's delayed attention to the ongoing, violent epidemic. After dipping the sculptures in wax, he pelts them with bullets in a shooting range before casting them in bronze. In naming them after recent victims who have been in the media's eye—Sandra, Michael, Trayvon—Biggers demonstrates the infamy of these instances in the viewer's immediate recognition of a first name paired with a bullet-riddled figure. The BAM sculptures fuse stoic serenity with gut-wrenching violence. It is a masterful display of what Biggers does best: eschewing a heavy-handed message in favor of masking the horrific in something beautiful, compelling and confusing. "I'm not making protest posters," he says. "The BAM series became a way to see the consistency of the events. These killings have been going on for 500 years—it's a continuum of dysfunction." Biggers deftly navigates between mediums to best narrate his point, like a polyglot plucking phrases from various languages to communicate with nuance. During this studio visit, he was preparing for the first dress rehearsal of an adaptation of L'Amant Anonyme, the opera by Chevalier de Saint-Georges, directed by Philip Shneidman. Saint-Georges, born to a French plantation owner and an African slave, rose to prominence as a fencer and musician prior to the French Revolution. Biggers was brought on to handle the art direction and costumes, which he bills as a conflagration of "mystical capes and drapes and scarves and cowls inspired by West African Sufis, mixed with a little bit of Versailles rococo." While Biggers alternates between materials, he is quick to point out that he does, in fact, have a binding medium. "The material I like the most is history, as opposed to any physical material," he says. "Artists have a unique platform. We can present information that is conjecture or subjective, but it can promote dialogue, make people look at what is happening and, most importantly, question what is being served to them." PHOTO BY ALEXANDER STEIN

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