The Undefeated Billboard Project: Sanford Biggers
The Undefeated Billboard Project selects contemporary artists to create an artwork for a large billboard that sits atop the Undefeated store on Los Angeles’ La Brea Boulevard. Sanford Biggers, one of last season’s Harlem Postcard artists, is the most recent artist to be selected. Past artists include Studio Museum alums Gary Simmons and Kehinde Wiley. I interviewed Sanford about the project and got the inside scoop...
How was the collaboration between you and the Undefeated Billboard Project initiated?
I was in Brasil on another project when I received an email from Sarah Cohen, the curator of the Undefeated Billboard project. She is a collector of my work and we share several mutual friends yet have never met in person. She told me about the project and asked if I had any images that might work. Until then I'd been by the shop several times over the years, but didn't know her connection to it.
Describe the image and tell us your inspiration behind the artwork?
The image is from a 2007 sculpture of a big, red-lipped smile entitled "Cheshire", which refers to both Lewis Carrol’s infamous cat and the iconic grin of blackface minstrelsy. It is exhibited hanging from a tree or the ceiling. The sculpture also plays a starring role in the video "Shuffle" which I shot in Stuttgart, Germany and Salvador do Bahia, Brasil. The teeth and lips of Cheshire light up in random patterns creating a carnival-esque atmosphere.
How does “Cheshire” fit in to your larger body of work?
One tendency in my work takes problematic images and references to US and world history (slavery, blackface, lynching etc), and attempts to transcend their gravity, horror and psychological vestiges. Through visually and conceptually compelling installations, videos and performances, I challenge our traditional reading of history. Cheshire is a direct example of this approach.
What was the level of involvement of Undefeated’s creative team with this project?
The creative team was quite open, supplying me only with site and printing specs. We all agreed immediately on the best image for the project.
Do you have a particular affinity for sneakers or interest in sneaker design?
I'm a b-boy from back in the day. I don't rock sneaks like I used to but stay up on the latest designs and names.