Sanford Biggers: Back to the Stars

Opening: Thursday, Sep 14, 2023 5 – 7 pm
Thursday, Sep 14 – Nov 3, 2023

451 N. Paulina
Chicago, IL 60622

Monique Meloche Gallery is pleased to announce Sanford Biggers' exhibition, Back to the Stars, the artist’s fourth solo presentation with the gallery. The exhibition showcases new artworks from his ever-evolving Chimera and Codex series, which juxtaposes figurative marble sculptures and quilt compositions. These new works bring aesthetic, poetic, and social insights to the intertwining stories embedded in material culture. Biggers’ creative processes recognize and conflate syncretic impulses between aesthetic expressions from seemingly disparate societies and histories, transforming them into rigorously formal and conceptual new works.

Biggers’ Chimera sculptures combine various African and European masks, busts, and figures that explore historical depictions of the body and their subsequent myths, narratives, archetypes, perceptions, and power. Back to the Stars will feature two new cast marble busts adorned and enigmatically veiled with hand-painted elements. Biggers’ polychromatic intervention disrupts the historically revered iconic white marble canon, questioning the nature of authenticity, authority, and origin just as early 20th-century documentation of African objects were “blackwashed” or memorialized without their original paint and raffia decoration restored. Intrigued by recent scholarship on the historical “whitewashing” of classical Greco-Roman sculpture and its convergence with the “blackwashing” of various African sculptural objects in the early twentieth century, Biggers revitalizes the ancient tradition of polychromy and challenges the associated cultural and aesthetic assumptions connected to the source materials while acknowledging the often inconsistent provenances of these objects.

The marbles will be shown alongside a new work in his kaleidoscopic Codex series—a large-scale quiltwork composed from stitched geometric swatches stretched across a plywood armature to form a three-dimensional object that resembles folded paper. These origami-like quilts map a constellation of references from Japanese woodblock prints to Gee’s Bend quilts, from Duchamp ready-mades to signposts on the Underground Railroad. Having collected quilts over the course of many years, in this series Biggers’ aesthetic considerations of palette and pattern illuminate conceptual considerations of syncretism and appropriation.

Back to the Stars rejects fixed narratives of quilt and marble traditions. Instead, Biggers’ new works gracefully traverse the intricate layers woven into their composition, embracing the balance between the masculine and feminine, resilience and fragility, eternal and ephemeral. Through this nuanced and conceptual patchwork, the artist ushers his practice into the future, revealing the inherent essence of each piece as it harmonizes with the passage of time. 


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. Further complicating the work, Biggers deconstructs the quilts and rebuilds them into 2D quilt paintings and 3D abstract quilt sculptures. Within his 2017 Residency at the American Academy Fellow in Rome, Biggers began manufacturing marble sculptures called “Chimeras”, creating hybridized forms that combine and juxtapose historical subjects to give them new alternative meanings. In response to the ongoing occurrences of police brutality against Black Americans, the “BAM” Series is composed of wooden African sculptures dipped in wax and ‘resculpted’ ballistically. 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.

Biggers (b.1970, Los Angeles, CA) received a BA from Morehouse College, Atlanta, and an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he sits on the Board of Governors. He was a former Associate Professor at Columbia University's Visual Arts program. He attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (1998). Notable solo-exhibitions include Salina Art Center Kansas, Salina, KS (2022); Chazen Museum, Madison, WI (2022); Speed Museum, Louisville, KY (2022); The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C. (2021); The California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2021); and The Bronx Museum, Bronx, NY (2020). Notable group exhibitions include Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO (2023); Lubeznik Center for the Arts Michigan City, IN (2022); Rudolph Tegner Museum, Dronningmølle, Denmark (2022); Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN (2022); Cleveland Art Museum of Art and Design, Cleveland, OH (2022); Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR (2022); Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum, NY(2021); Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA (2021);  North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC (2021); Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY (2021); Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, TX (2021); and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA (2020).