Lehmann Maupin is pleased to announce Blowin' in the Wind, Nari Ward's eighth exhibition with the gallery and first solo exhibition in Hong Kong. For this new body of work the New York-based artist, renowned for his ability to combine politics and historical references with personal identity, creates a show that is unifying and humanistic at a time of extreme division worldwide. Following his critically-lauded retrospective We The People that premiered at the New Museum, Ward has established himself as an opposing voice amidst current dominant narratives. Distancing himself from superficial interpretation and overt political commentary, Ward instead provides a perspective on the dichotomy of power and its aesthetic and cultural manifestations. There will be an opening reception with the artist on Monday, March 16, from 6 to 8 PM at the Pedder Building.
Early in his career Ward built a reputation for repurposing found objects and placing them in juxtapositions that highlight their functional purposes, cultural associations, and metaphorical potential. Often choosing media sourced from his neighbourhood, his proximity and intimacy to these materials allowed Ward to subtly incorporate his own lived experience into the work. This methodology has persisted throughout his career, evolving as he has pushed the boundaries of his dominant medium of sculpture and assemblage into wall mounted works that engage with the history of art as well as consumer culture and social justice issues.
Among the works debuted in the exhibition is a new series that references 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 destabilises 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.
Ward has also created two new works from his signature shoelace series where he renders words and phrases out of shoelaces inserted into a wall. For the artist, who ascribes a certain amount of animism to his materials, the shoelaces make general reference to an anonymous mass of people through their ubiquitous universal use. The audience's familiarity with this material is tantamount, as Ward prioritises the experience of the viewer and their ability to find a personal entry point over grand, overarching ideology and statement.
One of the new works features the titular phrase, Blowin' in the Wind, and the other a clenched fist, the universal symbol of solidarity. Bob Dylan adapted the melody for Blowin' in the Wind (1962) from the spiritual No More Auction Block for Me, which dates back to the Civil War and was sung by slaves fleeing to Canada after Britain abolished slavery in 1833. The song represented defiance, survival, grief, and resolution, and Dylan's adaptation became an anthem for the civil rights movement. Ward uses these two symbols to present a conceptual framework for the exhibition, foregrounding strength in the face of adversity.
About the artist
Nari Ward (b. 1963, St. Andrew, Jamaica; lives and works in New York) received a BA from City University of New York, Hunter College in 1989, and an MFA from City University of New York, Brooklyn College in 1992. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organised at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TX (2019); New Museum, New York, NY (2019); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA (2017); Socrates Sculpture Park, New York, NY (2017); The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, PA (2016); Pérez Art Museum Miami, FL (2015); Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2015); Louisiana State University Museum of Art, Baton Rouge, LA (2014); The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, PA (2011); Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, MA (2011); Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA (2002); and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2001, 2000). Select group exhibitions featuring his work include Objects Like Us, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT (2019); UPTOWN: nastywomen/badhombres, El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY (2017); Black: Color, Material, Concept, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (2015); The Great Mother, the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Palazzo Reale, Milan, Italy (2015); The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, IL (2015); NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, New Museum, New York, NY (2013); Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Rotunda, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY (2010); the Whitney Biennial, New York, NY (2006); Landings, Documenta XI, Kassel, Germany (2002); Passages: Contemporary Art in Transition, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Projects: How to Build and Maintain the Virgin Fertility of Our Soul, MoMA PS1, Long Island City; The Listening Sky, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; the Whitney Biennial, New York, NY (1995); and Cardinal Points of the Arts, 45th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy.
Ward's work is in numerous international public and private collections, including Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD; the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; the Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; GAM, Galleria Civica di arte, Torino, Italy; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, Turkey; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC; National Gallery of Victoria, Southbank, Australia; the New York Public Library, New York, NY; Pérez Art Museum Miami, FL; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.
Ward has received numerous honours and distinctions including the Vilcek Prize in Fine Arts, Vilcek Foundation, New York (2017); the Joyce Award, The Joyce Foundation, Chicago (2015), the Rome Prize, American Academy of Rome (2012), and awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1998); the Pollock-Krasner Foundation (1996); and the National Endowment for the Arts (1994). Ward has also received commissions from the United Nations and the World Health Organization.
Press release courtesy Lehmann Maupin.