A library of our print and digital publications.
“What I want to do is code-switch. To have there be layers of history and politics, but also this heady, arty stuff—inside jokes, black humor—that you might have to take a while to research if you want to really get it.”
Sanford Biggers (b. 1970) is a Harlem-based artist working in various media including painting, sculpture, video, and performance. He describes his practice as “code-switching”—mixing disparate elements to create layers of meaning—to account for his wide-ranging interests. This catalogue focuses on a series of repurposed quilts (many made in the nineteenth century) that embodies this interest in mixture. Informed by the significance of quilts to the Underground Railroad, Biggers transforms the quilts into new works using materials such as paint, tar, glitter, and charcoal to add his own codes, whether they be historical, political, or purely artistic. Insightful essays survey Biggers’s career, his art in relation to music, and the history upon which the series draws. Also featured is a short yet powerful graphic essay by an award-winning illustrator that introduces the layered meanings inherent in the art and craft of quilting.
Edited by Andrea Andersson and Antonio Sergio Bessa with contributions by Greg Tate, Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard, Mia Kang, and John Jennings with David Brame and Esperanza Bey.
To tailor a garment by “rock of eye” is to rely on the drape—on experience over mathematical measurement—in the fitting process. It is a kind of drawing in space—a freehand, an intuition, a trust of materials. Rock of Eye, published on the occasion of Troy Montes-Michie’s (born 1985) solo exhibition at the California African American Museum, is a collection of the artist’s collages, drawings, and found and woven images sourced from vintage erotic magazines. These erotic materials are familiar from Montes-Michie’s recent large-scale paintings and collages that center on the Black male body and his series that traces the social history and form of the zoot suit. Troy Montes-Michie was born in El Paso and his practice reflects his experience growing up along the US/Mexico border. His works are studies in ambiguity between portraiture and landscape; his are the cuts and folds of patterning and mapping. In Rock of Eye, Montes-Michie’s stitches suture histories and geographies; they establish thresholds for crossing; his needle hits rock. Including essays by Brent Edwards, Tina Campt and editor Andrea Andersson, Rock of Eye is a tactile and sensuous artist’s book recalling the form of fabric swatch books and affirming that collage is an art of selection.
Edited by Andrea Andersson and Lisa Pearson with texts by Tina Campt, Brent Edwards, Andrea Andersson, and an afterward by Cameron Shaw.
Mother Patchwork began as a graphic essay, Jennings’ contribution to the publication, Sanford Biggers: Codeswitch (Yale University Press, 2020). This animation recognizes that the logic of the quilt, which stitches part to part, is also the logic that transforms still into moving image. And like quilting, it is a process that involves many hands. Mother Patchwork is the work of John Jennings with David Brame and Esperanza Bey, stitched together with the sounds of Moon Medicin, and rendered as animation by Daniel Rowe. It is the result of collaboration between Bronx Museum of the Arts and Rivers Institute for Art & Thought.
“We Are Not Responsible” was originally published in Harryette Mullen’s collection Sleeping with the Dictionary (2002). Rehearsing and repurposing the standard rules of linguistic engagement, Mullen mines both Roget’s Thesaurus and The American Heritage Dictionary in a study of the logics and limits of our world. In her book, Mullen absorbs the hierarchical and categorical commitment of Roget and registers the editorial history of the American Heritage, which was compiled with the assistance of a democratic usage panel that included poets Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps, as well as feminist author and editor Gloria Steinem. Mullen’s writing is a sensual, playful, and heartbreaking demonstration of the constraints of writing and society as much as it is a primer in the art of defiance.
Sanford Biggers: a fractal approach is comprised of twenty quilt works by the artist Sanford Biggers—arranged in a grid, eight squares at its surface, twenty in its depth. By clicking on any square in the grid, the image will advance to the next. Within each square, every work can be navigated from end to end using your cursor.
Known in mathematics as self-similarity, fractal geometry presents as successive magnification or unfolding symmetry. Such is the language of crystals and galaxies, but in the practice of Sanford Biggers, scale is a tool for the discovery of both similarity and inversion. Biggers’ 2007 glass-etching, Lotus, appears from a distance as the Buddhist symbol for enlightenment, but the details of the perfectly symmetrical work reveal lotus petals comprised of bodies in the cargo hold of 18th century slave ships.
Register is a verb, a noun, a poem, a collage, a montage, a soundscape, a polemic, a call to action on the occasion of the 2020 November election. The work was born in the archives of Amistad Research Center, which holds photographs, pamphlets, and manuscripts from the long fight for voting rights in the United States—including the papers of civil and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer (1966–1978). Drawing from material history, Laura Mullen composed a hybrid collaged-based work, voiced by Laura Mullen together with fellow poets Rodrigo Toscano, Ronaldo V. Wilson, and Terri Witek, and given sonic shape by Nathan Davis.
This work was made possible through the partnership between Rivers Institute for Contemporary Art & Thought and the Amistad Research Center. This work is dedicated to Fannie Lou Hamer.
Elinor Carucci: Halfway is a photography essay and oral history by the artist Elinor Carucci spanning twenty five-years of the artist’s practice and three series of work: Closer, Mother and Midlife. Released in the final days of 2020, it is a study on the myth of origins, the courage of women, the politics of domesticity, the intensity of intimacy, the performance of sexuality, the burdens of loving, the agony of growing, the liberation of aging, and the proximity of death. Carucci suspends our gaze at the strange and difficult, familiar and glorious in our family lives. She gives form to a feminist motherhood.
Elinor Carucci: Halfway is accompanied by “Now,” an essay by Jacqueline Rose from Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: New York), 2018.
The oral history by Elinor Carucci was edited by Aimée Toledano.
Nineteen Notes for Nineteen Flags is occasioned by the nation-wide initiative, Elena del Rivero: Home Address. The latter is a multi-platform installation, defined by nineteen flags designed and suspended across the United States to commemorate the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment, which legislated women’s right to vote in the United States. Del Rivero’s multiples, emblazoned with a common abstract, geometric pattern also wear the stains of history in recognition of all whose rights were not protected by the landmark legislation—particularly women of color who continue to fight against racial discrimination in voting.
In her work, del Rivero transfers often-overlooked or underestimated textiles from the kitchen into the public sphere. The large-scaled dishtowels rhyme with the geometries of flags commonly on display; they also belong to the artist’s interrogation of geometric abstraction. Her serial exploration locates grids of feminine-coded material culture as antecedents for “vanguard” developments in the male modernist canon. Del Rivero’s flags celebrate the everyday labor invested in the perpetual making of a participatory democracy.
In New Orleans Elena del Rivero: Home Address is presented by Rivers at Tulane University in partnership with Amistad Research Center and at Xavier University in partnership with Xavier’s Center for Equity, Leadership & the Human Spirit. We extend particular thanks to Kara Olidge and Christopher Harter at Amistad Research Center, Ron Bechet and David Robinson-Morris at Xavier University, and Henrique Faria Gallery for your partnership and support in realizing this multi-site endeavor.
From the Root is an origin story of New Orleans musical culture. It is composed of archival photographs and oral histories and was researched and compiled by Melissa Weber, curator of Tulane University’s Hogan Archive of New Orleans Music and New Orleans Jazz. It is a history in the form of first-person accounts. It is a living history, including a contemporary interview with internationally acclaimed artist Nicholas Payton who speaks to the origins and futures of Black American Music, to those who have sought to control its history, and to the ways it will be liberated.
We give special thanks to the Hogan Archive of New Orleans Music and New Orleans Jazz at Tulane University for permission to reproduce and share archival materials.
We are indebted to the music and storytelling of Billie and DeDe Pierce, Kid Clayton, Avery “Kid” Howard, Manuel Mello, Charlie Hamilton, Peter Bocage, Alex Bigard, Dolly Adams, Lawrence Duhé, & Lester Santiago.