Press Release

For Immediate Release: Oct. 21, 2009
For More Information: Cathleen McCormick (cmccorm@fas.harvard.edu) or Tom Lee (lee16@fas.harvard.edu), 617.495.8676


(Cambridge, MA) The Office for the Arts at Harvard (OFA) presents a temporary art installation and related events in conjunction with the residency of New York artist Sanford Biggers.

Installation: Constellation (Stranger Fruit)
November 6 – December 2, 2009
Mon – Fri 10 am-6 pm; Sat 12-6 pm; Sun 12-3 pm
(closed Nov 26 & 27; closed Nov 28 before 2 pm)
Memorial Hall/Sanders Theatre Transept
Quincy & Kirkland Streets, Cambridge

Public Forum:
Monday, November 16, 2009, 6 pm
A conversation with Sanford Biggers and Steven Nelson, Associate Professor of African and African American art history at UCLA, moderated by Helen Molesworth, Houghton Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museum. Sponsored by Office for the Arts at Harvard and Harvard Art Museum. Admission is free and open to the public.
Harvard Art Museum, 485 Broadway, Cambridge

Wednesday, November 18, 2009, 4 pm
Performance at the installation with vocalist/composer Imani Uzuri, members of Harvard’s KeyChange, and instrumentalist Sumie Kaneko, followed by an informal exchange with the artists. Admission is free and open to the public.
Memorial Hall/Sanders Theatre Transept
Quincy & Kirkland Streets, Cambridge

Sanford Biggers is the 2009 Marshall S. Cogan Visiting Artist at Harvard through the Public Art Program of the Office for the Arts, which commissioned the installation by the artist as a key component of his residency.

Through conceptual works that fuse diverse cultural sensibilities and symbols, Biggers explores the similarities underlying ostensibly disparate cultural expressions. Incorporating icons and rites ranging from Japanese mandalas to slave quilts, hip hop, and YouTube music culture, the artist’s works connect the various signifiers and patterns that link African spiritualism, Buddhist sacred rituals, and African-American urban culture. At the same time, Biggers investigates history, race relations, and the socio-political environment. His works suggest that we transcend divisive social realities through the interconnectedness inherent in our shared affinity for the symbolic and the spiritual.

The fusion of meditative, historical, and contemporary concerns can be seen in Biggers’ new work at Harvard. Stranger Fruit reflects the artist's interest in the coded geometries by which we communicate. It also considers the African-American experience, tapping local history in this investigation. The installation-—a bare tree overhung with a quilt and rooted in a pattern of stars—refers to the directional messages embedded in quilt patterns and the storied constellations of stars that directed slaves along the Underground Railroad to freedom in Boston and other northern destinations in 19th century America. The work is at once contemplative and resonant of a harrowing historical reality. Its tenor is extended in the performance with vocalist Imani Uzuri on site.

Sanford Biggers’ installations, performances, and videos have been shown in venues worldwide including the Tate Modern, London; Whitney Museum, New York; Studio Museum, Harlem; Prospect 1/New Orleans Biennial; and institutions in China, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Poland and Russia. He is also the recipient of numerous awards including, most recently, the 2009 William H. Johnson Prize, a $25,000 award given annually to an early-career African-American artist. He was a finalist for the inaugural Jack Wolgin Fine Arts Prize, the largest award ($150,000) given to a visual artist in a juried competition. Biggers received a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. A native of Los Angeles, he has lived in Japan and currently resides in New York. In January 2010, he begins a new appointment as Assistant Professor at Columbia University School of the Arts.

The OFA's Public Art Program brings artists and students together to explore the meaning and possibilities of art in public spaces around Harvard. For more information on Sanford Biggers or the Public Art Program, visit www.ofa.fas.harvard.edu or call 617.495.8676.

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The Office for the Arts at Harvard, established in 1973, supports student engagement in the arts and serves the University in its commitment to the arts. Through its programs and services, the OFA fosters student art-making, connects students to accomplished artists, integrates the arts into university life, and partners with local, national, and international constituencies. By supporting the development of students as artists and cultural stewards, the OFA works to enrich society and shape communities in which the arts are a vital part of life. For more information, call 617.495.8676, email ofa@fas.harvard.edu or visit www.fas.harvard.edu/ofa.

Additional Information

Official Sanford Biggers Site

OFA Sanford Biggers Site