On April 26, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston
opens Nari Ward: Sun Splashed, the most significant exhibition of the artists work to date. Ward (b. 1963 in St. Andrew Parish, Jamaica) actively engages with local sitestheir histories, communities, and economiesto create spectacular, ambitiously scaled artworks out of unlikely materials.
Sun Splashed includes artworks made from soda pop bottles, shoelaces, shopping carts, and a fire escapematerials that speak to the artists distinctive experimentation and resonate with social, political, and cultural meaning. Working in sculpture, collage, photography, video, installation, and performance, Ward captures the makeshift qualities of everyday life and imbues his production with a visceral relationship to history and the real world. The exhibition focuses on vital points of reference for Ward including his native Jamaica, citizenship and migration, and African-American history and culture, to explore the dynamics of power and politics in society. The exhibition is organized by Pérez Art Museum Miami Associate Curator Diana Nawi. The Boston presentation, on view through September 4, is coordinated by Ruth Erickson, ICA Associate Curator, with Jessica Hong, Curatorial Associate.
The ICA first introduced Nari Ward to Boston audiences in the 1998 exhibition, The Quiet in the Land, and again in 2000 as part of a public project, Art on the Emerald Necklace. Then, as now, Ward uses familiar materials in resonant ways to reflect on the ideas, experiences, and artifacts of community, democracy, and homeland, said Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director of the ICA.
Emerging alongside a notable group of African-American artists who rose to prominence in the 1990s, Ward takes on a massive and tactile approach to art-making and has expanded contemporary definitions of installation, assemblage, and site-specificity, said Erickson. His deft use of found objects imbues his work with an instinctive connection to the past as well as the present, allowing him to challenge viewers perceptions of familiar objects and experiences.
Sun Splashed features approximately 43 works, including:
Happy Smilers: Duty Free Shopping, 1996An immersive architectural installation that includes a real fire escape, found domestic appliances wrapped in firehoses, and an audio track.
Savior, 1996A 10-foot tall sculpture that transforms a quotidian shopping cart through intricate assemblage and wrapping.
Glory, 2004A trenchant installation centered on a tanning bed made from oil barrels incised with the American flag.
Naturalization Drawing Table, 2004An interactive installation based on Wards experiences of becoming a U.S. citizen that gives visitors a better understanding of the bureaucratic process. When activated (on select days), participants will be able to have passport photos taken, fill out a facsimile of an INS naturalization form, have it notarized, and then return it to the artist to keep and display. Upon completing the naturalization process, the participant will receive a set of prints from Ward.
Mango Tourist, 2011A play on a form the artist has returned to in many works, the snowman, these larger than life sculptures transpose these frozen figures into tropical tourists made from foam, electrical detritus, and mango seeds.
We the People, 2011A large-scale installation in which the opening phrase of the United States Constitution is transcribed onto the wall using hand-dyed shoelaces. Ward will work with participants in the ICAs Teen Arts Program to install the work at the museum.
Homeland Sweet Homeland, 2012A densely textured work that transcribes the Miranda Rightsthe rights of citizens when interacting with police officers and prosecutorsinto a seemingly domestic wall hanging that upon closer inspection contains all manners of collaged found elements including barbed wire, metal spoons, and embroidery.
Canned Smiles, 2013Two tin cans, one labeled Jamaican Smiles and one labeled Black Smiles, which reference a seminal 1961 work of conceptual art by Italian artist Piero Manzoni and play with structures and limitations of ideas around national and racial identity.
Land, 2002-14A large-scale sculptural tree made of hundreds of tricycle and stroller wheels that will be installed on the ICAs first floor. Speakers play a soundtrack of wheels moving across surfaces, adding a sense of mobility to the piece. The sculptures wheels and lack of roots serve as metaphors of migration, especially pertinent today as masses of people traverse the globe seeking new roots in foreign lands.