Sanford Biggers: Sweet Funk—An Instrospective
Composed of a thick, gnarled tree that grows through and around a baby grand player piano, Blossom presides over the exhibition Sanford Biggers: Sweet Funk—An Introspective. Created in 2007, and recently acquired by the Brooklyn Museum, Blossom is here presented along with a selection of works made by the artist from 2002 to 2009 that have visual motifs and narrative threads in common. The exhibition traces the emergence and development of three significant components—the piano, the tree, and the cosmological diagram—in the artist’s production, their convergence in Blossom, and their trajectories in his subsequent works.
The title Sweet Funk suggests how Biggers’ sculptures make their effect, for like them it holds multiple meanings in suspension. The word funk has several definitions that refer, variously, to an earthy kind of music, a pungent smell, or a depressed state of mind—anything but sweet. The artist likens these contrasting meanings to those in beat poetry. It is not surprising that Biggers, whose art invites richly layered readings, selected such a resonant word to be included in the title of the exhibition. In addition, the act of connecting funk, in any of its meanings, and sweet, two contradictory concepts, exemplifies his wish to see things in the dynamic, synthesizing terms of “both/and” rather than the more straightforward, categorical terms of “either/or.” From decisions about materials to imagery and ideas, the approach of both/and permeates his work.
This exhibition occupies the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery, a domed space whose floor plan—a circle inscribed within a square—resembles a cosmological diagram of the sort that can be found in a number of Biggers’ works. In light of this, perhaps the gallery can be regarded as a miniature universe in which each piece by the artist, a world unto itself, also plays a role in collectively creating a larger constellation of meanings around the central Blossom.
John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art