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Rooted Communities: The art of Nari Ward on view at the LSU Museum of Art
Nari Ward, 2010, King Buoy, aluminum shade cloth, reflectors, wood, glass, bell, reflective street name sign, Courtesy of the artist and Lehman Maupin Gallery.

BATON ROUGE, LA.- The LSU Museum of Art is featuring the first museum exhibition of Nari Ward’s work since the New York-based artist received a coveted Rome Prize in 2012-2013. Rooted Communities: The Art of Nari Ward is his first solo exhibition in Louisiana, runs through August 10, 2014. Ward was awarded the LSU College of Art + Design’s prestigious Nadine Carter Russell Chair for the 2013-2014 academic year, a rotating residency within the College. Rooted Communities coincides with his residency at LSU, and highlights a series of Ward's recent sculptures, works on paper, and mixed media installations. Ward will hold a lecture on his work, Monday, March 24 at 5 p.m. at the LSU Design Building Auditorium, room 103. In April, the LSU Museum of Art will also debut the artist’s installation, to be made with university students during his residency.

Since 2000, Ward has lived and worked in Harlem, collecting the neighborhood’s discarded objects for use in his work. His works give presence and new life to these unwanted or forgotten items. “It starts as a personal, immediate connection with what’s going on around me,” Ward describes of his process and inspiration. “But the broader and bigger it becomes, the more powerful I think the work can be.” The meaning of Ward’s work is chameleon-like, changing within the context of its presentation.

Rooted Communities comprises twenty-two mixed-media sculptures, some of which are free standing, while others hang from the walls or the ceiling. A master at balancing elegance with grittiness, Ward articulates multi-layered issues that affect all communities: economics, poverty, race, culture, and how these factors shape a society. A tire swing (Swing, 2012), for example, suggests carefree living—until one notes that the tire is suspended from a hangman’s noose, a particularly poignant and raw symbol in the Deep South. In Loisaidas LiquorsouL (2011), Ward rearranges the letters of a neon liquor store sign, positioning the letters "S-O-U-L" upright while leaving the remaining letters upside down. With the work Medicine Bats (2011), Ward comments on America’s national pastime and shows how it’s a sport constantly grappling with its history and legacy from the earlier restriction of African Americans to its more recent attempts to address the use of steroids

Dr. Jordana Pomeroy, Executive Director of the LSU Museum Art notes that “Ward’s work encourages different interpretations and narratives, based on the experiences that the viewer brings to the conversation. In this way, there is no single interpretation but a multitude of associations that feed into the meaning of each work of art. We expect our visitors to leave with varied reflections on their visit to the exhibition.”

Ward is the latest recipient of the LSU College of Art + Design’s Nadine Carter Russell Endowed Chair. The Russell Chair is the most prestigious award granted by the College to a visiting artist, and rotates between the schools within the College. This academic year the award is hosted by the School of Art. Ward will be professor in residence at LSU during the Spring semester. During his residency, he will work with students in the advanced sculpture class taught by Malcolm McClay, Associate Professor of Sculpture.

Nari Ward recently returned to the United States, following a fellowship in Rome, Italy, as part of the 2012-2013 Rome Prize, a yearly award bestowed by the American Academy in Rome on a select group of individuals who represent the highest standard of excellence in the arts and humanities. Additionally, he has received commissions from the United Nations and the World Health Organization, and awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Pollock Krasner Foundation.

Born in St. Andrews, Jamaica, Ward (b. 1963) came to the United States as a young boy. Early in his career he explored illustration and figurative painting, until a summer at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture convinced him that sculpture was his calling. Controversial issues surrounding citizenship, cultural consumption, discrimination, race, and poverty build the narratives that Ward articulates in rubber, string, metal, and other detritus. His powerful yet delicate sculpture reveals his profound respect for the process of making art, which can transform the mundane and unattractive into something of great beauty, which in turn, often references subjects of great ugliness, including racism and police brutality.

“I build drama from the use of found and everyday objects, merging physical information and materials with memories, thoughts, experiences and questions,” declares Ward. “The exhibition space is the place of contemplation where I attempt to visually seduce the viewer into a dialogue with their own undirected but necessary thoughts and emotions.”

Rooted Communities was organized by the LSU Museum of Art and is on loan from the Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York.

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