Nari Ward: Sun Splashed Installation view Pérez Art Museum Miami, 2015
Image courtesy Pérez Art Museum Miami. Photo: STUDIO LHOOQ.
With barely a week remaining, if you want to take in – and you should – the mid-career survey show of Jamaican-born, American artist Nari Ward, you should scoot on down to Pérez Art Museum Miami a.k.a PAMM.
Curated by Diana Nawi, the exhibition ‘Sun Splashed’ eschews presenting Ward’s work chronologically in favour of examining thematics, formal concerns and conceptual pre-occupations that re-occur in his work over approximately a twenty-year period.
Nari Ward’s work first attracted attention in the 1990’s when the art world barometer re-positioned itself to reconsider artists exploring interrelated themes that were generally lumped together under the generalisation of ‘identity politics’. Ward was born in Jamaica, studied in the USA and later became a naturalised American citizen, living and working today in NYC. And, his work often addresses his experience as an Afro-Caribbean man, and, indeed, his personal process of becoming an African-American, such as in the work ‘Naturalization Drawing Table’ (2004) that uses installation, drawing and no little dash of ironic game-playing to make points that are both political and personal.
Ward’s work if often concerned with addressing issues of race, identity, poverty and the hypocritical socio-political relations that exist between the Caribbean and inner-city America and those who chose to commodify ethnic groups in these locales as a means of denial, both of social and political realities. But, in Ward’s hands, it is not easy to dodge the dialectics or the social contexts to which his works refer. If you love your fun-ridden Caribbean getaways because everyone is “just so happy on the islands”, chances are you’re blind enough to walk away unaffected. But, if your opinion masks a something that, deep down you know to be based on inequality best kept beneath the veneer of the resort, you may never be able to ethically participate in Caribbean tourism of the industrial kind again.
Much of Ward’s work involves sizeable installations and ‘Sun Splashed’ does not disappoint here either, with substantial installation works that command a sensorial response, demonstrating why he has exhibited in some of the world’s top museums and landmark art events and is primarily known as a sculptor and installation artist. But, as ‘Sun Splashed’ evidences, he is most definitely an eclectic artist when it comes to medium and will deploy anything from photography and collage to high-brow art historical puns. In effect, he seems to intuitively select a medium based on its intrinsic abilities to convey the points, questions and confrontations with which he wished to address the viewer. Go, get sun splashed.