I often wonder about artists’ statements. Sometimes I think art should stand on its own, and that if it needs a 4 paragraph explanation, it did something wrong. I might compare it to explaining the punchline to a joke. If you have to spell it out, what’s the point? But at the same time, what is there to gain by spending an entire day looking at art that I can’t wrap my head around? Recently I came across an artist, that without some of the statements about the pieces, would have made no sense. Even with the statements, it’s hard to grasp it all.
With my most recent of several moves, I have found myself within walking distance of the Brooklyn Museum. I didn’t make my way through the whole museum, but I did manage to catch an interesting exhibit/installation from the artist Sanford Biggers entitled, FUNK….an introspective. It encompassed several works that sort of echo off of a central piece entitled Blossom. Some of the recurring themes commented upon were music (specifically pianos ), Buddhism, racism, and identity. By the way, I only discovered those last three because of all the statements on each piece. Blossom is a piece that contains a player piano that has been pierced by a tree. In his statement about the piece, Biggers mentions some of the history of the tree. It is where Buddha found enlightenment, what much of his piano is made from, and what many African-Americans were lynched from on American soil. So the artist is obviously playing with multiple meanings and interpretations. He wants the viewer to really think about it.
The other piece that really seemed interesting to me was the piece entitled Lotus. It was one that really took a second look to appreciate.. At first it just seemed to be a large representation of a lotus flower, and he was making some sort of reference to Buddhism (the lotus flower is often a symbol of meditation), but upon further inspection, I saw that the patterns on the flower petals were made of human silhouettes. Apparently, the layout from each petal was a reproduction of the ship’s hull that carried many slaves to America. So again, the artist is playing both with the plight of African Americans, and the tenements of Buddhism. What he is trying to say with this is unclear to me, but he is trying to make us think. Perhaps creating this image was a way of meditating for him, in an effort to get past such atrocities.
I could probably keep going, but I like to keep these somewhat short as I know people are busy. I would say he is an artist to keep an eye out for as he is definitely keeping things interesting.