'Lotus', 2011, Archival pigment on archival rag paper, 3/75 edition, 16 x 20 inches
The lotus flower is a divine symbol in Buddhist and Hindu traditions, representing the purity of the soul and the detachment of the body and mind from earthly concerns. The lotus is a motif central to Sanford Biggers's artistic practice, which he likens to a visceral, pre-conscious notion of art-making where being open to "unknown possibilities" and to improvisation are key.
Lotus (3) seems to be a detailed and beautiful image reminiscent of traditional woodcuts. Closer inspection, however, reveals that the intricate patterns decorating the lotus are actually representations of thousands of men and women bound fast within its petals. The shape of each petal and the configuration of the bodies within correspond to an eighteenth-century diagram that shows the layout of human cargo in slave ships crossing from Africa to America.
Sanford Biggers uses installation, film and video, and performance to create artworks that fuse a diverse range of cultural symbols, histories, and customs to suggest a spiritual and symbolic interconnectedness that transcends our differences. Biggers's work is known for its combination of meditative rigor and improvisatory edge, resulting in multilayered compositions that draw from the Buddhist idea of "both/and," hip-hop culture, constellations, Afrofuturism, slave quilts, Jazz, and mandalas. Despite his use of disparate themes, Biggers manages to seamlessly combine them into works of beauty and grace.
Biggers's work first received critical attention for his collaborative work in the Freestyle exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2001, which was followed by his inclusion in the Whitney Biennial in 2002. Since then, his work has been shown across the US and internationally.