Nari Ward: We the People

MCA Denver, Denver, United States
01 Jul 2020 - 20 Sep 2020

Nari Ward, LAZARUS Beacon, 2020. Courtesy the artist; Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul; and Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Beijing, Les Moulins, Habana, and Roma. Photo credit: Orange Barrel Media.

Nari Ward: We the People features a selection of sculptures, paintings, videos, and large-scale installations from throughout Ward’s career, highlighting his status as one of the most important and influential sculptors working today.

Since the early 1990s, Ward has produced his works by accumulating staggering amounts of humble materials and repurposing them in consistently surprising ways. His approach evokes a variety of folk traditions and creative acts of recycling from Jamaica, where he was born, as well as the material textures of Harlem, where he has lived and worked for the past twenty-five years. Yet Ward also relies on research into specific histories and sites to uncover connections among geographically and culturally disparate communities and to explore the tension between tradition and transformation.

The exhibition will include several key early works, such as the large-scale environment Amazing Grace (1993), which Ward made and exhibited in an abandoned firehouse. In his more recent work, Ward directly addresses complex political and social realities that resonate on a national level, reflecting the profound changes gentrification has brought to his own neighborhood of Harlem and the increasingly fractured state of democracy in the United States more broadly. He uses language, architecture, and a variety of sculptural forms to reflect on racism and power, migration and national identity, and the layers of historical memory that comprise our sense of community and belonging. Nari Ward: We the People will bring together many of Ward’s most iconic sculptures alongside a number of works rarely seen since they were originally created. The exhibition will demonstrate Ward’s status as a key bridge between generations of American sculptors and a vital advocate for art’s capacity to address today’s most urgent issues.

Nari Ward: We the People is accompanied by an ambitious public art exhibition in partnership with Orange Barrel Media and MCA Denver debuting on 38 digital screens visible throughout downtown Denver, including a major new work LAZARUS Beacon (2020) to be projected on Denver’s iconic 325′ tall clocktower. Find the video .

Ward’s architectural wall-drawings will appear on massive digital billboards and the screens of OBM’s Ike Smart City pedestrian kiosks – including images of protest signs, the Black Power fist, and text-based works “We the People”, “We Shall Overcome”, “Blowin’ in the Wind”, and more.

The new site-specific building projection LAZARUS Beacon (2020) is based on Emma Lazarus’s sonnet “The New Colossus” that appears on the Statue of Liberty and highlights the subjects of the poem, among them the tired and poor.


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