Nari Ward

Nari Ward, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, Homeland Sweet Homeland, 2012. Cloth, plastic, megaphones, razor wire, feathers, chains, and silver spoons. 100 x 64 x 10 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.

Nari Ward examines societal issues—such as citizenship, cultural consumption, discrimination, and poverty—with personal connections, reflecting his experiences growing up in Jamaica and working as an artist in Harlem. Ward’s art is often composed of the discards of consumerism—materials collected from his urban neighborhood—that reveal the diverse emotions inherent in everyday objects. His work helps to develop a viewer’s awareness and understanding of contemporary themes, through wordplay that explores the ambiguity of language or juxtapositions of technology with other found objects.

The FWM exhibition We the People highlighted recent, prominent installations and sculptural works by Ward. The eponymous new installation transcribed the opening phrase of the United States Constitution with shoelaces bored into the museum wall. These shoelaces were hand dyed during Ward’s residency. Ward believes that it is impossible to separate these three words from their strong association to the Constitution. He can, however, revolutionize the viewer’s reaction to them through the magnitude of the arrangement and adaptation of the piece.

After this exhibition, Ward completed a second work with FWM’s studio staff, a cross-stitched and embroidered quilt. Titled Homeland Sweet Homeland (2012), this densely textured work reconceives the Miranda rights—which are dictated by police to criminal suspects to ensure they understand their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights—from the perspective of a US citizen. Upon closer inspection, this seemingly domestic wall hanging contains all manner of collaged found elements, including barbed wire, chains, silver spoons, and bullhorns.

Artist Bio

Jamaican-American, born 1963, lives and works in New York.  

Nari Ward received his BA from Hunter College, New York in 1991—where he currently teaches—and his MFA from Brooklyn College, New York in 1992. Ward is known for his practice of creating sculpture from repurposed objects. His recent solo exhibitions have been organized by the New Museum, New York (2019); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2017); The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia (2016); Pérez Art Museum Miami (2015); Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2015); Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, MA (2011). Recent group exhibitions include Objects Like Us at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT (2018); UPTOWN: nastywomen/badhombres at El Museo del Barrio, New York (2017); Black: Color, Material, Concept at The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2015). Ward has received 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.