Nari Ward · Re-Presence

Celebrated New York artist Nari Ward will open an exhibition, Nari Ward • Re-Presence, in the first-floor galleries of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art.

Born in St. Andrews, Jamaica, in 1963, Ward has been included in the 2008 Prospect.1 New Orleans Biennial, 2006 Whitney Biennial in New York and in Documenta XI in Kassel, Germany, in 2003. Ward is currently working on a solo exhibition to be presented at Mass MoCA next year.

Known for dramatic sculptures made from discarded materials found in urban neighborhoods, Ward creates works which often comment on issues related to consumer culture, poverty, race, and, most recently, support for those with physical and mental illness. Using a sense of irony and irreverence, he suggests a point of view, poses a question or tells a story. Writers have compared him to a modern archeologist who uses salvaged materials — television sets, plastic bags, liquor signs, grocery carts, oil barrels, and fake luxury goods — to interpret the history and emotions attached to those “recycled” elements.

Since 2000, Ward has lived and worked in Harlem, collecting the neighborhood’s discarded clothes, ephemera, and trash for use in his work.  Included in Re-Presence are various signs which Ward has gathered and repurposed.  A Chase Bank banner is morphed into AfroChase, replete with hair picks and cowrie shells. Massive neon signs which originally promoted “LIQUORS” now emanate a single pronouncement: SOUL. And a monumental installation, Airplane Tears, utilizes wall-mounted television backs to address emotional vulnerability.  Ward’s assemblages of discarded or abandoned objects seem to simultaneously exude hopelessness and despair, as well as hope and humor. 

“We are especially pleased that the Nerman is hosting Nari Ward’s first one-person museum exhibition in the United States,” said Bruce Hartman, executive director, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art.

Ward earned his bachelor’s degree in art from Hunter College, New York, and his master’s degree in fine arts from Brooklyn College. He is currently a professor of art and sculpture at Hunter College. He has received commissions from the United Nations and the World Health Organization, and awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, The Joan Mitchell Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Grant and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation.

Ward’s new media work titled Father & Sons will be on view in the Oppenheimer Oppenheimer New Media Gallery, Second Floor, NMOCA during the exhibition.