So there’s a trapeze in Sanford Biggers’ show, Cosmic Voodoo Circus, on view at MFTA recipient Sculpture Center, through November 28. There are also stars made of mirrors shattered on the floor and reflected onto the wall (see image above). Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get the song “Shattered Glass” from Britney Spears’ 2008 album, Circus, out of my head while I was there. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the song, here’s a sample of the lyrics:
You’re gonna see me in your dreams tonight / my face is going to haunt you all the time / I promise that you’re going to want me back / when your life falls apart / like shattered glass
There is more haunting art and glass–both shattered and intact–after the jump. Cosmic Voodoo Circus will certainly haunt you, especially the new video, Shake, which the is described in the show’s press release as the
“center of Biggers’ installation.” The video is the “second part in an odyssean trilogy about the formation and dissolution of identity. Shot in Brazil with a Creative Time [another MFTA recipient] travel grant, Shake follows Ricardo Castillo, a Brazilian-born, Germany based, choreographer, clown, stuntman and DJ, through a transformative journey from the ocean through the favelas, to a colonial palace eventually returning to the sea as an androgynous silver-skinned figure. (The first video in the trilogy, Shuffle, will be on view at Brooklyn Museum [yet another MFTA recipient], through January 8, 2012, as part of Sanford Biggers: Sweet Funk – an Introspective.)”
Sweet Funk, a concurrent show of Biggers’ work at Brooklyn, is also not to be missed–and not just because it includes two repurposed pianos. The museum’s generously-proportioned fifth floor Cantor Gallery is ideal for the sparse installation of the show’s 13 works. Blossom (2007), which the museum acquired this year, is the centerpiece of Sweet Funk.
Rising into the Cantor Gallery’s rotunda, Blossom is a multimedia installation, basically a baby grand piano stabbed through its center with a tree. The piano has been converted so it can play “Strange Fruit,” the famous Billie Holiday song based on the poem “Strange Fruit” by Abel Meeropol. The version played by the piano is a bit deconstructed but just as poignant as Holiday’s version.
The installation of Sweet Funk really allows the mood of each work and their collective power to pervade the space. The midi piano’s chords, the leering lights of the Cheshire cat/minstrel show lips (Cheshire, 2008), the shadow cast by the Obama/MLK sculpture (Passage, 2009), and the horrific imagery of the Middle Passage–a diagram of the Whydah reimagined as the petals of a lotus flower (Lotus, 2007)–all haunt the airy space with beauty and tragedy.
As a side note, there is more art with glass/mirrors on view at MFTA recipient MoMA: It is Robert Smithson’s 1966 Mirror Stratum. I’ve shown a version of the work from Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
Of course, we have glass at the warehouse, and hope our recipients are using it to enrich the cultural life of New York City. Here are a couple raw materials and an improvised glass sculpture inspired by the Smithson piece and some of Biggers’ work.
So using glass might be tough for our recipients that work with children. This plastic packaging, available in the warehouse now, is a perfect solution. The lightweight boxes could be stacked any number of ways, including as a stepped pyramid, as in Smithson’s Mirror Stratum.
Biggers’ use of light, reflection and shadow inspired this improvised sculpture which uses household glass items currently available on the warehouse floor.
We are so proud of the excellent shows mounted by our recipient organizations and hope you will head out to Sculpture Center, MoMA and Brooklyn Museum to see this art in person.
Cosmic Voodoo Circus, an exhibition of Sanford Biggers’ work, is on view at Sculpture Center, 44-19 Purves Street, Long Island City (!), through November 28, 2011.
Sanford Biggers: Sweet Funk – an Introspective, is on view at Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, through January 8, 2012.
Mirror Stratum is on view at Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, New York.