|Nari Ward, Act of God (detail), 2013: basketball cards and stencil ink on wooden panel, 48 x 36 x 1.5 in (121.9 x 91.4 x 3.8 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.|
Rooted Communities: The Art of Nari Ward
February 7 – August 10, 2014
Opening reception: Thursday, February 6, 2014, 6:00 – 8:00PM
Shaw Center for the Arts
100 Lafayette Street
Baton Rouge, LA
From Lehmann Maupin press release:
Rooted Communities coincides with Ward's residency as LSU College of Art + Design's prestigious Nadine Carter Russell Chair and features a group of the artist’s sculptures, works on paper, and mixed-media installations. Ward's powerful yet delicate works articulate multi-layered issues that affect all communities—economics, poverty, race, culture, and how these factors shape a society. Using discarded objects he collects from his local environment, Ward's work gives a presence and new life to these unwanted or forgotten items, the underlying meaning changing within the context of its presentation.
The exhibition includes twenty-five of Ward's works spanning the past decade as well as a new work, Free Weight Bottle Incubator (2013), created during Ward’s residency at LSU. Utilizing bottles recovered from the foundation and ruins of the Alvin Roy Strength and Health Studios, Louisiana's first commercial gym that opened in the 1940s, Ward added plexiglas disks and numerical engravings on the ends, transforming them into free weight sculptures. These works are displayed in an interactive model of the original Alvin Roy building, which the viewer can reach inside of to lift the weights. As part of this project, Ward also photographed members from the Baton Rouge community posing with the sculptural bottle weights. Ward comments: "The idea is to take the unearthed bottles as reference to forgotten history being examined, held and experienced on a visual and physical plane. These delicate excavated remnants of the foundation become poignant vessels of reflection on how history can play a role in the strengthening and maintaining of the spirit."
Ward's use of discarded materials to confront challenging themes is further illustrated throughout the exhibition in works such as Swing (2012), a tire studded with running shoes and 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, a frequent sight in urban neighborhoods, positioning the letters S-O-U-L upright while leaving the remaining letters upside down. Ward uses collectible basketball cards in works including Act of God (2013) to draw connections between sports, entertainment and African American culture. The players have been blacked out leaving only the orange basketballs exposed, creating the illusion of a starry sky.
Rooted Communities was organized by the LSU Museum of Art and is on loan from the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.
About Nari Ward
Nari Ward's (b. 1963, St. Andrews, Jamaica) work has been widely exhibited on an international level, including solo exhibitions at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia (2011); Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams (2011); Institute of Visual Arts, Milwaukee (1997); Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston (2002); and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2001, 2000). The artist has taken part in important group exhibitions, including the Whitney Biennale (2006); Prospect 1 New Orleans (2008); and Documenta XI, Kassel (2003).
In 2012, Ward was the recipient of the Rome Prize, a yearly award bestowed by the American Academy in Rome to a select group of individuals who represent the highest standard of excellence in the arts and humanities. Additionally, he has received prestigious 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.
Ward’s work is collected by numerous museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, North Carolina; Studio Museum, Harlem; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Whitney Museum, New York.