In between a giant, commanding Cheshire grin and a powerful sculpture of an African deity, a film plays on a wide screen, depicting an odyssey of one man’s transformation -- the second part in a trilogy about the formation and dissolution of identity.
Sanford Biggers’ “Cosmic Voodoo Circus” at the Sculpture Center in Long Island City could easily evoke a range of emotions and feelings when one walks into the seance-like feel of the exhibit. It’s funny, it’s mysterious and it’s almost spiritual, depending on how you look at it.
Commanding the space are two massive pieces, A Joia Do Orixa – an African deity (or Orixa) made of polystyrene, Aquaresin, spandex and steel, and Cheshire, a tilted billboard printed on vinyl, wood and steel, which was once on a billboard in Los Angeles.
Both were commissioned through the Sculpture Center’s Artist in Residence program, where the Los Angeles born sculptor spent months creating his pieces.
The film, entitled “Shake,” is part of Biggers’ trademark of working across disciplines creating sculpture, video, music and photographs.
From intercultural icons and rites, ranging from Japanese mandalas and slave quilts to hip hop culture and the African religion of Brazil, Candomble, Biggers’ work connects across cultures and through time.
“Shake” enhances the exhibition as worship songs flood the Sculpture Center’s huge warehouse space, filling it with an overall message of fitting in and adapting to a particular environment and transforming into something more, something bigger.
The recurring film follows Ricardo Castillo, a Brazilian-born, German-based choreographer, clown, stuntman and DJ, through a metamorphosis beginning from the ocean through Brazil’s favelas and then back to the see where he is reborn as an androgynous silver-skinned but humanistic creature.
A mechanically controlled empty trapeze begins to swing at various points in the film, adding to the entertaining, almost light-hearted circus feel of the exhibition.
As the trapeze swings back and forth, a spotlight casts an almost lonesome light on the Cheshire’s grin and the A Joia Do Orixa, whose eyes are covered by hay and stands under a traditional American circus tent, on a lit up stage that resembles a dance floor.
The Cheshire’s wide, toothy grin, a recurrent image in Biggers’ work, seems like it will almost break into a laugh as it taunts a viewer and rounds out the feel of this crazy cosmic voodoo circus.
“He really played with the space and pushed the boundaries of the space,” said Frederick Janka, the associate director of the Sculpture Center. “His work is in the end, very playful and offers a lot of these moments of engagement.”
“Cosmic Voodoo Circus” runs at the Sculpture Center through Monday, November 28.
The Sculpture Center is located at 44-19 Purves Street and is open Thursday through Monday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.