NARI WARD'S RITES-OF-WAY
IN THE MINNEAPOLIS SCULPTURE GARDEN
Unveiled last October, Rites-of-Way by Nari Ward is a visually arresting and conceptually layered sculpture that combines Twin Cities history, community stories, and the evocative environments for which the artist is known. During his Walker residency last year, Ward uncovered some intriguing pieces of local history, such as the grand ice palaces of the 1930s and 1940s designed by Twin Cities-based African-American architect Clarence Wigington; St. Paul's Rondo neighborhood, which was bisected by I-94 during the late 1950s; and the "villages" of ice-fishing houses that appear on Minnesota lakes every winter. Each references temporary architecture, dislocated dwellings, and ritualized communities.
For Rites-of-Way, Ward used the floor plan of Wigington's 1940 ice palace to create an enlivened architectural environment through which visitors can navigate. Passageways outlined by scaffolding are punctuated with beaded curtains, evoking the light and translucence of ice and water. The ice houses that crown the structure serve as dwellings for the communities' many memories, containing images of old Rondo homes and objects donated by community members.
During a series of community workshops he held last summer, Ward asked individuals to share their stories, memories, and thoughts about home, dislocation, and ritual. Participants included teens from the Penumbra Theatre Company Summer Institute, the Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council, recent Laotian immigrants, members of a Powderhorn Park writers group, Kulture Klub at Project OffStreets, and former Rondo residents. Each person donated an object that reflected his or her shared stories. The objects were packaged and mailed to no-longer-existing Rondo addresses--an homage to the working post office that was part of Wigington's ice palace design. Returned by the post office as undeliverable, these objects and the stories they hold became an integral part of Ward's sculpture.