Largest Exhibition of The Artist’s Work to Date Speaks to Issues Around Politics, Spirituality, Identity, and Migration

Press are welcome to preview the exhibition on Tuesday, April 25. Please contact Lisa Colli, or 617-480-4664, to RSVP or if you need additional information or images.

On April 26, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) opens Nari Ward: Sun Splashed, the most significant exhibition of the artist’s work to date. Ward (b. 1963 in St. Andrew Parish, Jamaica) actively engages with local sites—their histories, communities, and economies—to create spectacular, ambitiously scaled artworks out of unlikely materials.

Sun Splashed includes artworks made from soda pop bottles, shoelaces, shopping carts, and a fire escape—materials that speak to the artist’s distinctive experimentation and resonate with social, political, and cultural meaning. Working in sculpture, collage, photography, video, installation, and performance, Ward captures the makeshift qualities of everyday life and imbues his production with a visceral relationship to history and the real world. The exhibition focuses on vital points of reference for Ward including his native Jamaica, citizenship and migration, and African-American history and culture, to explore the dynamics of power and politics in society. The exhibition is organized by Pérez Art Museum Miami Associate Curator Diana Nawi. The Boston presentation, on view through September 4, is coordinated by Ruth Erickson, ICA Associate Curator, with Jessica Hong, Curatorial Associate.

“The ICA first introduced Nari Ward to Boston audiences in the 1998 exhibition, The Quiet in the Land, and again in 2000 as part of a public project, Art on the Emerald Necklace. Then, as now, Ward uses familiar materials in resonant ways to reflect on the ideas, experiences, and artifacts of community, democracy, and homeland,” said Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director of the ICA.

“Emerging alongside a notable group of African-American artists who rose to prominence in the 1990s, Ward takes on a massive and tactile approach to art-making and has expanded contemporary definitions of installation, assemblage, and site-specificity,” said Erickson. “His deft use of found objects imbues his work with an instinctive connection to the past as well as the present, allowing him to challenge viewers’ perceptions of familiar objects and experiences.”

Exhibition Highlights

Sun Splashed features approximately 43 works, including:

  • Happy Smilers: Duty Free Shopping, 1996—An immersive architectural installation that includes a real fire escape, found domestic appliances wrapped in firehoses, and an audio track.
  • Savior, 1996—A 10-foot tall sculpture that transforms a quotidian shopping cart through intricate assemblage and wrapping.
  • 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 on Ward’s experiences of becoming a U.S. citizen that gives visitors a better understanding of the bureaucratic process. When activated (on select days), participants will be able to have passport photos taken, fill out a facsimile of an INS naturalization form, have it notarized, and then return it to the artist to keep and display. Upon completing the ‘naturalization’ process, the participant will receive a set of prints from Ward.
  • 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.
  • We the People, 2011—A large-scale installation in which the opening phrase of the United States Constitution is transcribed onto the wall using hand-dyed shoelaces. Ward will work with participants in the ICA’s Teen Arts Program to install the work at the museum.
  • Homeland Sweet Homeland, 2012—A densely textured work that transcribes the Miranda Rights—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, metal spoons, and embroidery.
  • 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.
  • Land, 2002-14—A large-scale sculptural “tree” made of hundreds of tricycle and stroller wheels that will be installed on the ICA’s first floor. Speakers play a soundtrack of wheels moving across surfaces, adding a sense of mobility to the piece. The sculpture’s wheels and lack of roots serve as metaphors of migration, especially pertinent today as masses of people traverse the globe seeking new roots in foreign lands.
The Artist’s Voice: Nari Ward and Tania Bruguera, Thursday, April 27, 7PM

The relationship between art and politics is continually redefined by today’s artists living in an increasingly divisive social and political landscape. In this special engagement, guests will hear from two extraordinary artists—Ward and Tania Bruguera—who have taken different approaches to responding to their important roles as artist and citizen. Bruguera (born 1968 in Havana, Cuba) considers herself an ‘initiator’ and has developed various long-term collaborative projects, such as Migrant People Party and the Institute of Artivism Hannah Arendt. She recently announced her candidacy for presidency in Cuba. Ward and Bruguera will be joined by ICA curator Ruth Erickson in this important and timely discussion. Free admission, first come, first served; tickets available at the box office two hours prior to start of program.

Concurrent Socrates Sculpture Park Exhibition (Queens, NY)

New York’s Socrates Sculpture Park is concurrently presenting a solo exhibition of Nari Ward on view April 29-September 4, 2017. The exhibition, Nari Ward: G.O.A.T., again, will feature a series of six newly commissioned outdoor artworks that will traverse the five-acre park and bring new insight into the artist’s ongoing exploration of identity, social progress, the urban environment, and group belonging. Nari Ward: G.O.A.T., again is organized by Socrates Sculpture Park and curated by Jess Wilcox, Director of Exhibitions. Founded in 1986 as an open space dedicated to producing and presenting contemporary public art, Socrates is located on the East River waterfront of Long Island City, Queens, New York. Visit for more details.

Organization of Nari Ward: Sun Splashed and its presentation at the Pérez Art Museum Miami has been made possible by Citi and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, with additional support from the Funding Arts Network and Gander and White.

Support for the Boston presentation is generously provided by the Residence Inn.

Residence Inn Marriott