February 9 – March 15, 2008
Opening Reception: Saturday February 9, 6-8pm
D’Amelio Terras is pleased to present an exhibition of Sanford Biggers: an installation composed of a single channel video projection titled Cheshire and a sculpture of a broad smiling mouth will be on view in the front room gallery. The video “Cheshire” was first exhibited in “Blossom,” a three part solo exhibition at Grand Arts in Kansas city in September 2007 where it was projected outdoor on an exterior wall of a theater in downtown Kansas city. Located within a gallery space, the combination of video and sculpture functions as a theatrical installation developing themes of African American representation in pictures, which has been central to Sanford Biggers’ multi media practice. The theatricality of the installation continues his performance commissioned by Performa 07 “The Somethin’ Suite”, in which a short section of the video appeared while a live performance of the song Strange Fruit by the performer Imani Uzuri in geisha make-up took place. This unusual performance of the famous Billie Holiday piece is now part of the soundtrack of “Cheshire” at mid point in the video.
The 13’40” long single-channel projection shows different professional black men dressed in work uniform climbing or trying to climb a tree. One after another, they approach a tree of their choice in different locations (California and Germany) - the camera zooms in and out their action until, if they succeed, the climber reaches a comfortable position in the tree. The paradox between the outdoor setting and the uncanny action of an adult in professional clothes climbing a tree gives a surreal atmosphere: the men do not act based on a director’s script, they simply execute the task of climbing the tree without other apparent motive than a self imposed challenge. The title “Cheshire” references the cat in Alice in Wonderland. Sanford Biggers notes that the enigmatic animal ‘“disappears while spewing riddles or koans (Buddhist paradoxical utterances) until only his bodiless grin remains. He is as invisible as the professional Black man is in the mass media today – but I am also thinking about Black men hanging out in trees, as opposed to being hung from them.”’
The sculpture, similarly titled “Cheshire,” functions as an outrageous/shop street sign. A broad smile with big red lips and teeth so shiny that they are made of working light bulbs.