Sanford Biggers weaves his way into Miami

Arts / Article

Installation of “3 Dollars and 6 Dimes.”

There is a lot going on in Sanford Biggers’ “3 Dollars & 6 Dimes” exhibit at the David Castillo Gallery–maybe one of the biggest named artists Castillo has shown to date.

Start with the title, which has a lot of numbers and history going on in it. Singer Erykah Badu made the phrase famous, and it refers to 360 degrees, which is a complete circle, or in a broader meaning, coming to a complete, 360-degree understanding. This phrase in itself is based in the philosophy of the 5 Percenters, a semi-offshoot of the Nation of Islam, about the five percent of people who know true enlightenment, and whose founding in the 1960s has some mathematical principles (not unlike the Kabbalah tradition in Judaism). Biggers discussed this at an art talk during the opening, where his amazing art-quilts were unveiled.

A Sanford Biggers quilt.

A Sanford Biggers quilt.

These quilts have a history as complex as the title. Quilting has been a form of artistic expression in African American culture since the slave era, and can be considered non-verbal storytelling, with its patterns and colors that reflect African roots. And, referring back to numerology and mathematics in the show’s title, there is a geometric base to the imagery of quilts.

But these in the gallery are Biggers’ quilts, manipulated into 21st century sculptures by “weaving” into them spray paint, silkscreen, embroidery and acrylic additions. According to the artist, these quilts also weave together multiple cultures, from the traditional African American one from the deep South to hip-hop and Buddhism. Hanging in the gallery are also clouds, made of cotton and strung up with chicken wire–the reference here is unmistakable. Cotton was the engine of the plantation system, picked with the blood and sweat of slave labor, under skies that offered no relief.

Biggers is a native of Los Angeles but now makes New York home, where he is an assistant professor at Columbia University. His works have been shown and acclaimed across the globe, and his representation now in Miami boosts our art scene. No longer do you have to travel far to see this incredible selection of his work, presented in a compelling way in the gallery, so make a point of putting it on the itinerary. This will also be the last show in Castillo’s gallery in Wynwood–he will be moving to South Beach as of next season.

“Sanford Biggers: 3 Dollars and 6 Dimes” runs through July 5 at David Castillo Gallery, 2234 N.W. 2nd Ave., Miami; www.davidcastillogallery.com.