Sanford Biggers Codeswitch Andrea Andersson, Antonio Sergio Bessa, Greg Tate, Jacqueline Tobin, Raymond Dobard, Mia Kang, John Jennings, David Brame, Esperanza Bey

Publication date:
14 Apr 2020
Yale University Press
192 pages: 260 x 241mm
129 color illus.
Sales territories:

“What I want to do is code-switch. To have there be layers of history and politics, but also this heady, arty stuff—inside jokes, black humor—that you might have to take a while to research if you want to really get it.”—Sanford Biggers

Sanford Biggers (b. 1970) is a Harlem-based artist working in various media including painting, sculpture, video, and performance. He describes his practice as “code-switching”—mixing disparate elements to create layers of meaning—to account for his wide-ranging interests. This catalogue focuses on a series of repurposed quilts (many made in the 19th century) that embodies this interest in mixture. Informed by the significance of quilts to the Underground Railroad, Biggers transforms the quilts into new works using materials such as paint, tar, glitter, and charcoal to add his own layers of codes, whether they be historical, political, or purely artistic. Insightful essays survey Biggers’s career, his art in relation to music, and the history upon which the series draws. Also featured is a short yet powerful graphic essay by an award-winning illustrator that introduces the layered meanings inherent in the art and craft of quilting.

Andrea Andersson is the founding director of Rivers Institute for Contemporary Art & Thought, New Orleans. She previously served as the Helis Foundation Chief Curator of the Visual Arts at the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans. Antonio Sergio Bessa is director of curatorial programs at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

The Bronx Museum of the Arts
(September 9, 2020–January 24, 2021)
California African American Museum, Los Angeles
(July 28, 2021–January 23, 2022)

Speed Art Museum, Louisville
(March 18–June 26, 2022)