re:mancipation is a collaborative project that has undertaken a two-year study of Emancipation Group and its complex history, while cultivating a more nuanced understanding of our nation and ourselves. On February 4, 2023, the Chazen Museum of Art, artist Sanford Biggers, and MASK Consortium debuted the results of this intense examination as an exhibition, documentary, and website that will provide audiences with an intimate look at the project’s directive to address social justice and equity through artistic interpretation. re:mancipation encompasses the reimagining of the Chazen’s problematic Thomas Ball sculpture Emancipation Group, the repositioning of additional objects in the museum’s collection, creation of a new artwork by Biggers, as well as new research, archival, and educational material.
Emancipation Group has been in the Chazen Museum of Art collection since 1976. The sculpture depicts Abraham Lincoln standing over a kneeling freedman. A large bronze version is in Lincoln Park in Washington, DC , and one was recently removed from public space in Boston. Biggers is known for engaging a wide range of artists, disciplines, and techniques in his extraordinary body of work. He believes that the Chazen, a university art museum with a diverse set of audiences on a large Big Ten campus, is the ideal partner for this interrogative project. Over the last several years the Chazen has developed a reputation for activating innovative new approaches to its collection, exhibition programming and outreach. One of the key elements of this approach is to partner with contemporary artists to better illuminate and understand, in new context, historical works in the Chazen collection. This project is the most significant realization of this approach to date.
Listen to Meet Me at the Chazen:
The Chazen’s podcast, hosted by Gianofer Fields, features all things re:mancipation during the run of the exhibition.
Take a virtual tour now:
About the Artists
Sanford Biggers’ work is an interplay of narrative, perspective, and history that speaks to current social, political, and economic happenings while examining the contexts that bore them. His diverse practice positions him as a collaborator with the past through explorations of often-overlooked cultural and political narratives from American history. Working with antique quilts that echo rumors of their use as signposts on the Underground Railroad, he engages these legends and contributes to this narrative by drawing and painting directly onto them. In his BAM series, Biggers seeks to memorialize and honor victims of police violence in the US, pointing towards recent transgressions and elevating the stories of specific individuals to combat historical amnesia. This series is comprised of fragments of wooden African statues dipped and veiled with thick wax and then ballistically ‘resculpted.’ Biggers then cast the remnants into bronze, a historically noble and weighty medium. Each sculpture is named and dedicated after unarmed victims who have died at the hands of law enforcement. The artist began working in marble after a residency as a 2017 American Academy Fellow in Rome. Drawing on and playing with the tradition of working in this medium, Biggers’ series entitled Chimeras creates hybridized forms that transpose, combine and juxtapose classical and historical subjects to create alternative meanings and produce what he calls “future ethnographies.” As creative director and keyboardist, he fronts Moon Medicin, a multimedia concept band that straddles visual arts and music with performances staged against a backdrop of curated sound effects and video. In 2022, Moon Medicin released their debut album, The Great Escape, on Third Man Records and have performed at the Lincoln Center of Performing Arts, New York (2014), Open Spaces, Kansas City (2018), and The John F. Kennedy Center, Washington, DC (2019).
Sanford Biggers (b. 1970) was raised in Los Angeles and currently lives and works in New York City. Biggers has been honored for his work with awards and fellowships. In February 2023, he will be honored by Morehouse College for the 2023 Bennie Achievement Award. In 2022, he was honored for his achievements by the Art Production Fund, Orange County Museum of Art and Studio Museum in Harlem’s Lea K. Green Memorial. In 2021, he was the recipient of 26th Heinz Award for the Arts; Savannah College of Art & Design’s deFINE Art Award; and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professor and Scholar in the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA. In 2020, he was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship and appointed Board President at Sculpture Center, Long Island City, NY. Biggers was inducted into the New York Foundation for the Arts Hall of Fame in 2019 and received the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in 2018. In 2017, he was presented with the Rome Prize in Visual Arts. Biggers was Associate Professor of Visual Arts at Columbia University School of the Arts from 2009-2019.
Through a commission from the Art Production Fund, Biggers presented, Oracle, a monumental bronze sculpture and multimedia public art installation at Rockefeller Center in New York City in 2021. Oracle will travel to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA on March 25, 2023. In 2022, Biggers debuted a 24-foot-wide-by-16-foot-tall multimedia outdoor sculpture that operates as a combination and continuation of Biggers’ Chimera, Shimmer, and Codex series at the grand opening of Orange County Museum of Art. His solo museum exhibition, Codeswitch, a survey of his Codex series of mixed-media paintings and sculptures made with antique quilts was presented at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY (2020); the California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2021); and the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY (2022). He has also had solo exhibitions at The Phillips Collection (2021), SCAD Museum of Art (2021), Chazen Museum of Art (2019), Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2018), the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2016), the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (2012), and the Brooklyn Museum (2011), among others. His work has been shown in several institutional group exhibitions, including The Studio Museum in Harlem (2001), Whitney Biennial (2002), the Menil Collection (2008), The Tate Modern (2007), Metropolitan Museum of Art (2017), the Barnes Foundation (2017), Museum of Art & Design, New York (2020), Rubins Museum of Art, New York (2021), and The Centre Pompidou-Metz, Metz, France (2022). Biggers’ work is held in the collections of numerous public institutions including the Smithsonian, Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum of Contemporary Art, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, among others.
About MASK Consortium: MASK Consortium is a coalition of museums and educational institutions sharing knowledge. Its mission is to develop and promote a more complete understanding of human history and culture through the digital preservation of art and other cultural artifacts via 3D, 360-degree, VR capture. MASK develops curricula and programming for events, conferences and symposia around said works of art. Moreover, they work to create strategic partnerships with museums, universities, state and local government, as well as corporations and individuals who share their goal of fostering connection and expanding knowledge through the preservation and exhibition of art.
MASK Consortium Founding Partners:
Sanford Biggers first received critical attention when his collaborative work with David Ellis, Mandala of the B-Bodhisattva II, was included in the exhibition Freestyle, curated by Thelma Golden at the Studio Museum of Harlem in 2001. Since then, his works have been presented internationally including at the Tate Modern in London, the Renaissance Society in Chicago, Prospect 1 in New Orleans and the Whitney Biennial, The Kitchen, and Performa 07 (curated by Roselee Goldberg) in New York. Mr. Biggers is affiliate faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University’s department of Sculpture + Extended Media and was a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s VES Department in 2009. He was previously an assistant professor at Columbia University’s Visual Arts program.
Mark Hines is the founder and creator of the live streaming platform, Virtual Live Experiences (VLE). He has also served as Vice President of Creative Technology at Russell Simmons’ 360HipHop.com where he was instrumental in the conceptualization and development of the new media platform. Upon BET.com’s acquisition of the startup, Hines was appointed Vice President of Strategy where he was directly responsible for initiating a diverse range of innovative projects including the conception and implementation of music strategies, interactive programming and creative technology. From 1994 to 1999, Hines worked at JP Morgan where he specialized in the development of unique technology applications that provided the bank with its competitive edge. While at JP Morgan, Hines maintained a music production company, Poisoned Ivy Entertainment, which did work for several major labels including Warner Brothers, MCA, Columbia and Def Jam, for which he received a gold record for the Belly soundtrack. Hines’ formal discipline is computer science which he studied with a concentration in music at Princeton University where he received his BA.
Alicia H. Hines is the owner and operator of likkle jamaican dumpling house & library, a restaurant, community lending library and cultural destination in Brooklyn, New York. Hines, a Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellow, received her degree in English literature from Princeton University in 1995 and a Master of Arts in American studies from New York University in 1999. Hines taught English and was an academic dean at Horace Mann School in the Bronx for more than 15 years. She writes about race, gender, public space, literature and art. Hines, with Dr. Alondra Nelson (president of the Social Science Research Council, Center for Advanced Study) and Thuy Nguyen Tu (associate professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU) is the co-editor of a collection of essays on race and technology, titled Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life, published by NYU Press.
Arana Hankin has over a decade of experience overseeing large-scale planning and real estate development projects. With a background in economic development and arts policy, she has served as the director of the Atlantic Yards Project and the president of the Queens West Development Corporation for New York State Empire State Development. Hankin has led multi-disciplinary capital projects in government, not-for-profits, start-ups and for private real estate developers working as a senior executive and consultant at HR&A Advisors, WeWork, Lela Goren Group, Sugar Hill Capital Partners and the New York Urban League. Passionate about creative placemaking and cultural capital projects, Hankin has successfully negotiated inclusive partnerships across all sectors ensuring economic opportunities for community partners. She has implemented transformative operational initiatives to streamline production, reduce project budgets and improve equity, most recently serving as the interim COO of BRIC Arts while advising on capital expansion strategies. Hankin received a Bachelor of Arts from Howard University, a Master of Arts from Stanford University and was a Loeb Fellow at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.
Eric Edwards, Cultural Museum of African Art, has spent more than half of his life amassing one of the largest African artifacts collections ever held privately, comprising approximately 3,000 items, which encompasses the 54 countries of Africa. His collection includes authentic pieces from African royalty, male and female secret societies, spiritual and ritual masks, ancestral figures, weapons, jewelry, reliquary pieces, adornment, musical instruments, fetish pieces, as well as utilitarian items of everyday life. He has held educational symposiums, seminars for children and personal exhibits to educate people of African ancestry and the diaspora of their heritage, that include tremendous contributions to the world dating back more than 4,000 years of human history. Edwards’ purpose is to educate through the stories told by each of the artifacts within his collection, detailing the cultural and technical gifts, skills, value systems and artistry. Currently, items from Edwards’ African art collection are on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His goal is to ultimately create the Cultural Museum of African Art which will house his entire collection.
Edward Gajadar, Cultural Museum of African Art, Foundational Member, was born in New York City. He grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, The Lower East Side and The South Bronx. As a first-year undergraduate student, he attended Lehman College (CUNY), then transferred to St. John’s University, where he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in government and politics. Upon graduation, Eddie took an administrative position with St. John’s University, where he worked in the Office of Student Advising, Development and Retention. It was in this role that he became educated in terms of the inner workings of the university, as he learned from the directors of admission, registrar, bursar and financial aid. Passionate about helping others, this position was a natural fit. With the encouragement from family and friends, Eddie decided to attend law school. In the fall of 1998, he began his legal studies at St. John’s University School of Law, graduating in June of 2002. Eddie’s professional career has included working for the NYC Dept. of Education as a teacher (4th grade), the NYC Police Dept. as a police officer, chief of staff for a US Congressional candidate and strategic project manager for the Cultural Museum of African Art.
Guy Routte, SCHMTCS, Foundational Member
At the start of 2020, Routte rebirthed Schematics Industries, a multimedia operation with one simple goal: He wants “to build and create the blueprint for the type of content and media I want to see in the world.” On its plate are narrative films, documentaries and series, both web and TV, some that he’ll be writing and directing, including a docuseries about touring artists, that, in the time of coronavirus, has become even more relevant. Expect his signature on fine art projects, along with nontraditional record releases that incorporate striking visual content and presentations. Routte has shrewdly helped craft deals and shape careers of artists like rhyme whiz Pharoahe Monch, hometown protégé rapper/actor Shyheim, funk outfit The Family Stand, Living Colour frontman Corey Glover, R&B group Goodfellas and songbird Sara Devine, who he got signed to Columbia Records, where he served as senior A&R consultant. There, projects by Raphael Saadiq and Consequence fell under his watchful eye.
- Hyperallergic 5.24.2023
- CommonWealth journal 5.20.2023
- Celia Hiorns for the Badger Herald 5.15.2023
- The New York Times, April 30, 2023, The Museum Special Section
- The NewYork Times, April 30, 2023, Race/Related
- The Slowdown 3.17.2023
- Spectrum News 3.14.2023
- Forbes.com 2.23.2023
- WORT 8 O'Clock Buzz 2.21.2023
- Channel 3000 2.4.2023
- Wisconsin State Journal 2.06.2023
- Isthmus, 2.22.2023
- Tone, 2.21.2023
- The College Fix, 2.16.2023
- Madison Magazine 2.2.2023
- Madison.com 2.2.2023
- Isthmus 1.23.2023
- Brava Magazine Jan/Feb 2023
- Destination Madison
- The New York Times 5.21.2021
- Hyperallergic 7.27.2021
- Inside UW 8.10.2021
- re:mancipation website
- BAM! at the Chazen, 2019
Programming & Financial Support
Necessary Sacrifices. Playwright Richard Hellesen explores the two documented encounters between Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln during a period of national crisis. Listen to the audio performance in its entirety.
This project has been supported through a grant from the Mellon Foundation, and with additional support from the National Education Association, the Brittingham Wisconsin Trust, and UW–Madison’s Office of the Chancellor. Portions of this exhibition’s text content were provided or inspired by America’s Black Holocaust Museum.