Nari Ward weaves together collections of found objects into abstract narratives of the personal, power, and injustice in the New Museum’s 25-year retrospective Nari Ward: We The People. Ward, who began his career in the early 1990’s Harlem, primarily employing large sculpture/installation composed of materials sourced in his neighborhood, denoting a sense of time, place, and power, that affects individual
‘s as well as their community.
The titular work We The People (2011) consists of holes drilled directly into the wall forming the words “We The People” (in the same script used in the Constitution). A variety of shoelaces hang from these holes forming a strange vinery. The words of the Constitution in correlation with the multitude of shoe strings seems to indicate the many individuals that these words should represent, despite its original context of exclusivity of any non-white male property owner.
Ward’sIron Heaven’s (1995) is a collection of charred wooden baseball bats, which fractures are dressed in cotton, and leaning against a wall of oven pans. The bats, scorched appearance and tiered structure is reminiscent of the remains of a large bonfire. Violence is implicit in the destruction of the objects use and history. While the oven pans are individually too small to have been the instruments that burnt the bats, their histories have become linked by fire.
The massive installation, Amazing Grace(1993), takes up one large gallery. Consisting of hundreds of discarded strollers facing towards the interior of the space, a path made of flattened fire hoses threads around the strollers forming a shape that resembles the hull of a ship. Mahalia Jackson’s rendition of Amazing Grace plays in the low-lit room. The piece flattens time, bringing together symbols and material reality of an ongoing struggle against a history of oppression. From the Middle Passage to mass incarceration, the absence in the strollers tells the unfathomable American story of perpetual loss by continued systematic injustices.
We The People, 2011
Iron Heaven’s, 1995
Amazing Grace, 1993