On November 19, Pérez Art Museum Miami will present Sun Splashed, the largest exhibition of Nari Ward’s found object sculptures and groundbreaking installations to date. This mid-career survey, featuring work from the 1990s to today, will also showcase lesser-known aspects of his practice such as photography, video, and collage. Taken together, Ward’s oeuvre speaks with penetrating insight and imagination to a broad range of themes, including African- American history and culture, the dynamics of power and politics, and Caribbean diaspora identity.
“We’re pleased to mount this important mid-career survey of Nari Ward’s work as part of our commitment to bringing internationally influential contemporary artists to PAMM. In our local context, it’s especially interesting to draw out the aspects of Ward’s practice that reference his native Jamaica, the politics of immigration, and the search for cultural identity—issues of particular relevance to the city of Miami,” said Diana Nawi, the exhibition’s curator and associate curator at PAMM. “Sun Splashed is an overdue opportunity for a close consideration of Ward’s diverse and experimental production that has pushed the boundaries of sculpture.”
Emerging alongside a notable group of African-American artists who rose to prominence in the 1990s, Nari Ward’s massive and tactile approach to art-making has expanded contemporary definitions of installation, assemblage, and site-specificity. His deft use of found objects imbues his work with a visceral relationship to history and the real world, allowing him to challenge viewers’ perceptions of familiar objects and experiences. Ward’s innovative approach has earned him numerous prestigious awards, including the Rome Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship. The catalog for Sun Splashed will feature crucial scholarship on his singular practice, with essays by Naomi Beckwith, Ralph Lemon, Erica Moiah James, and Philippe Vergne.
Highlights from Nari Ward: Sun Splashed include:
Happy Smilers – Duty Free Shopping, 1996—An immersive architectural installation that includes a real fire escape, found domestic objects, and an audio track
The Saviour, 1996—A 10-foot tall sculpture that transforms a quotidian shopping cart through intricate assemblage
Glory, 2004—A trenchant installation centered on a tanning bed made from oil barrels incised with the American flag
Naturalization Drawing Table, 2004—An interactive installation based around Ward’s experiences of becoming a U.S. citizen; when activated, viewers will be able to fill out a facsimile of an INS naturalization form and have it notarized in exchange for an editioned set of drawings the artist made on the same forms.
Mango Tourist, 2011—A play on a form the artist has returned to in many works, the snowman, these larger than life sculptures transpose these frozen figures into tropical “tourists” made from foam, electrical detritus, and mango seeds
Homeland Sweet Homeland, 2012—A densely textured work that transcribes the rights of citizens when interacting with police officers and prosecutors into a seemingly domestic wall hanging that upon closer inspection contains all manners of collaged found elements including barbed wire
Canned Smiles, 2013—Two tin cans, one labeled “Jamaican Smiles” and one labeled “Black Smiles,” which reference a seminal 1961 work of conceptual art by Italian artist Piero Manzoni and play with structures and limitations of ideas around national and racial identity.