About The Work
In his new body of work, Nari Ward, who is renowned for his ability to combine politics and historical references with persona identity, has created a series that asserts unity and humanism at a time of extreme division across our globalized society. Distancing himself from superficial interpretation and overt political commentary, across the series Ward provides a perspective on the dichotomy of power and its aesthetic and cultural manifestations.
Ward’s shield sculptures make specific reference to the heraldry designs of Western Europe used for decoration and to distinguish opposing groups during times of battle and pageantry. In these sculptural works, which resemble shields with a similar type of insignia, Ward offers a subversive take on the authority, power, and privilege these symbols historically signify. By replacing typical heraldic motifs like an eagle or weapon with more absurd or mundane icons like a smartphone, tea kettle, hand mirror, or hand tools, Ward destabilizes the power-lineage these images convey. Rendering this imagery in copper―a material often used by the artist for its historical significance and conductive properties―not only disturbs this traditional iconography but also hints more broadly at the human tendency to strive for power and authority.
Nari Ward (b. 1963, St. Andrew, Jamaica; lives and works in New York) is known for his sculptural installations composed of discarded material found and collected in his neighborhood. He has repurposed objects such as baby strollers, shopping carts, bottles, doors, television sets, cash registers and shoelaces, among other materials. Ward re-contextualizes these found objects in thoughtprovoking juxtapositions that create complex, metaphorical meanings to confront social and political issues surrounding race, poverty, and consumer culture. He intentionally leaves the meaning of his work open, allowing the viewer to provide his or her own interpretation.
One of his most iconic works, Amazing Grace, was produced as part of his 1993 residency at The Studio Museum in Harlem in response to the AIDS crisis and drug epidemic of the early 1990s. For this large-scale installation, Ward gathered more than 365 discarded baby strollers—commonly used by the homeless population in Harlem to transport their belongings—which he bound with twisted fire hoses in an abandoned fire station in Harlem. Echoing through the space was an audio recording of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson’s Amazing Grace on repeat. The lyrics speak about redemption and change, generating optimism and a sense of hope. As with most of his work, this installation explored themes informed by the materials, community, and location in which Ward was working. The work has since been recreated at the New Museum Studio in 2019, the New Museum’s Studio 231 series in 2013, and in several locations across Europe. With each change of context, the significance of the work changes as each community associates differently with these found objects.
Rachel Lehmann and David Maupin founded Lehmann Maupin in 1996. The gallery represents a diverse range of contemporary artists and estates from around the world. Since inception, Lehmann Maupin has been instrumental in introducing international artists in new geographies. This mission has resulted in historic first exhibitions in New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.