The Harlem-based interdisciplinary artist Sanford Biggers became interested in American quilts when he discovered—while fulfilling a 2009 commission for the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, a stop on the Underground Railroad—that quilts had been hung on fences and in yards as navigational signals for escaping slaves. The quilts were codes. Hence the name of this exhibition, “Codeswitch.” As Biggers explains, “I began to search out quilts from the 1800s and add new layers of code through mark-making, painting, cutting, collaging, and reconstruction. These quilts are an archive of an ongoing material conversation that acquires new meanings over time.” —L.J.
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