Nari Ward: We the People

Nari Ward: We the People

New Museum

Nari Ward, We the People, 2011. Shoelaces, 96 x 324 in (243.8 × 594.4 cm). In collaboration with the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Collection Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY; Gift of the Speed Contemporary, 2016.1. © The Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY.

February 4, 2019
Nari Ward
We the People
New Museum
235 Bowery
New York, NY 10002

The New Museum presents Nari Ward: We the People, on view from February 13 to May 26, 2019. The first museum survey in New York of the work of Nari Ward (b. 1963, St. Andrew, Jamaica), the exhibition will bring together works spanning Ward’s 25-year career, installed across the three main floors of the Museum. Nari Ward: We the People is curated by Gary Carrion-Murayari, Kraus Family Curator; Massimiliano Gioni, Edlis Neeson Artistic Director; and Helga Christoffersen, Associate Curator.

The exhibition will feature over 30 sculptures, paintings, videos, and large-scale installations from throughout Ward’s career, highlighting his status as one of the most important and influential sculptors working today. Since the early 1990s, Ward has produced his works by accumulating staggering amounts of humble materials and repurposing them in consistently surprising ways. His approach evokes a variety of creative acts of recycling and folk traditions from Jamaica, where he was born, as well as the material textures of Harlem, where he has lived and worked for the past 25 years. Ward also relies on research into specific histories and sites to uncover connections among geographically and culturally disparate communities and to explore the tension between tradition and transformation.

This presentation will highlight the continued importance of New York, and Harlem in particular, to the material and thematic content of Ward’s art. Many of his early sculptures were created with materials scavenged from buildings and streets in Harlem. These items—baby strollers, fire hoses, baseball bats, cooking trays, bottles, and shopping carts—were chosen for their connection to individual lives and stories within the neighborhood. The exhibition will include several key early works, such as the large-scale environments Amazing Grace (1993) and Hunger Cradle (1996), which Ward made and exhibited in an abandoned firehouse. In 1993, he had his first institutional solo exhibition at the New Museum, where he exhibited a dramatic large sculpture titled Carpet Angel (1992), which will also be featured in this survey.

In his more recent work, Ward directly addresses complex political and social realities that resonate on both a local and a national level, reflecting the profound changes gentrification has brought to Harlem and the increasingly fractured state of democracy in the United States. He uses language, architecture, and a variety of sculptural forms to examine racism and power, migration and national identity, and the layers of historical memory that comprise our sense of community and belonging. Nari Ward: We the People will bring together many of Ward’s most iconic sculptures alongside a number of works that have not been seen in New York since they were originally created. The exhibition will demonstrate Ward’s status as a key bridge between generations of American sculptors and a vital advocate for art’s capacity to address today’s most urgent issues.

A fully illustrated catalogue copublished by the New Museum and Phaidon Press accompanies the exhibition. The catalogue includes an interview with Nari Ward conducted by Lowery Stokes Sims, a conversation between Okwui Enwezor and Massimiliano Gioni, and newly commissioned essays on the artist’s work by Gary Carrion-Murayari, Lauren Haynes, and Bennett Simpson.

Public Programs

3 Legged Race: Harlem, Art, and Community
Saturday, February 16, 3pm                        
Presented during the opening week of Nari Ward: We the People, this conversation and screening will feature archival footage documenting the creation of Nari Ward, Marcel Odenbach, and Janine Antoni’s site-specific installation 3 Legged Race (1996).

Nari Ward in Conversation with Massimiliano Gioni
Thursday, March 14, 7pm                            
The New Museum hosts a special conversation between artist Nari Ward and Massimiliano Gioni, Edlis Neeson Artistic Director.

Outside the Box Gallery Talks: Abbe Schriber on Nari Ward: We the People
Thursday, March 28, 3pm
Art historian Abbe Schriber will discuss the exhibition Nari Ward: We the People in this gallery-based talk.

Outside the Box Gallery Talks: Eric N. Mack on Nari Ward: We the People
Thursday, April 18, 3pm
Artist Eric N. Mack presents a special gallery talk on the exhibition Nari Ward: We the People

Alchemy: Found Material in Contemporary African-American Art
Thursday, May 9, 7pm
On the occasion of Nari Ward: We the People, this panel discussion will bring together an intergenerational group of artists—including Kevin Beasley, Abigail DeVille, and Shinique Smith, with moderator Andrianna Campbell—to explore how the use of found materials speaks to issues of culture, identity, and history within African-American contemporary art.       

Outside the Box Gallery Talks: Ishion Hutchinson on Nari Ward: We the People
Thursday, May 16, 3pm
Poet Ishion Hutchinson presents a special gallery talk on the exhibition Nari Ward: We the People.


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New Museum
February 4, 2019

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