Sanford Biggers, Cheshire (Janus), 2023

Presented by Marianne Boesky Gallery and MASSIMODECARLO

Audio guide


About the work

Sanford Biggers’s Cheshire (Janus) is an illuminated sculpture of a double-sided set of lips and teeth. The image takes its name from the Cheshire Cat of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, known for its ear-to-ear smile and its ability to gradually disappear, leaving in its wake the famous disembodied Cheshire Cat Grin.  

In the 1860s, following the release of Black Americans from enslavement by the Emancipation Proclamation, a popular and degrading trend of entertainment began in the United States. Blackface minstrel shows saw white performers covering their hands and faces in burnt cork or charcoal paste to lampoon the recently emancipated Americans. For many, an exaggerated set of lips and teeth can still symbolize this period; Cheshire (Janus) conflates this history with the seductive kitsch of cabaret and circus lighting and the duplicity of picture-perfect smiles and carnival masks.  

With its broad grin, thick red lips and flashing white teeth, Cheshire (Janus), reminiscent of blackface imagery, appears, disappears and reappears like Carroll’s cat. Innocuous and inflammatory, this sculpture hangs on a tree, inviting viewers to ‘step a little closer...’ Duplicitous with menace in its glee, its mundanity weaponized. 

About the artist

The work of Sanford Biggers (b. 1970, Los Angeles) is an interplay of narrative, perspective and history that speaks to current social, political and economic happenings while examining their underlying contexts. His diverse practice positions him as a collaborator with the past through explorations of often-overlooked cultural and political narratives from American history. His work encompasses painting, sculpture, textiles, installation, film and performance, employing a wide variety of media such as antique quilts, bronze, marble, sequins and sound. His practice is a lexicon of layered histories and symbols drawn from an expansive array of references such as the legacy of enslavement, mythology, Buddhism, jazz, astronomy, sacred geometry, hip hop and Japanese traditions, among many others. Biggers uses history as a malleable material that he repurposes and reinterprets, connecting past and future temporalities in homage to the stories of objects while allowing for new conceptual possibilities – what the artist calls ‘future ethnographies’.

For more information, please visit the gallery website: Marianne Boesky Gallery and MASSIMODECARLO 

explore frieze sculpture


Early bird tickets to the fairs are now sold out. Limited full-price tickets have just been released. Don't miss out, book yours now.