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February 5, 2014

Nari Ward exhibition at LSU Museum of Art

Nari Ward, Rooted Communities 
Louisiana State University Museum of Art 
February 7 - August 10, 2014

NARI WARD  
Act of God (detail), 2013 
Basketball cards and stencil ink on wooden panel, 48 x 36 x 1.5 in (121.9 x 91.4 x 3.8 cm). 
Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong 

Rooted Communities coincides with Nari Ward's residency as LSU College of Art + Design's prestigious Nadine Carter Russell Chair and features a group of the artist’s sculptures, works on paper, and mixed-media installations. Ward's powerful yet delicate works articulate multi-layered issues that affect all communities—economics, poverty, race, culture, and how these factors shape a society. Using discarded objects he collects from his local environment, Ward's work gives a presence and new life to these unwanted or forgotten items, the underlying meaning changing within the context of its presentation.

The exhibition includes twenty-five of Nari Ward's works spanning the past decade as well as a new work, Free Weight Bottle Incubator (2013), created during Ward’s residency at LSU. Utilizing bottles recovered from the foundation and ruins of the Alvin Roy Strength and Health Studios, Louisiana's first commercial gym that opened in the 1940s, Ward added plexiglas disks and numerical engravings on the ends, transforming them into free weight sculptures. These works are displayed in an interactive model of the original Alvin Roy building, which the viewer can reach inside of to lift the weights. As part of this project, Ward also photographed members from the Baton Rouge community posing with the sculptural bottle weights. Ward comments: "The idea is to take the unearthed bottles as reference to forgotten history being examined, held and experienced on a visual and physical plane. These delicate excavated remnants of the foundation become poignant vessels of reflection on how history can play a role in the strengthening and maintaining of the spirit."

Nari Ward's use of discarded materials to confront challenging themes is further illustrated throughout the exhibition in works such as Swing (2012), a tire studded with running shoes and suspended from a hangman’s noose, a particularly poignant and raw symbol in the Deep South. In Loisaidas LiquorsouL (2011), Nari Ward rearranges the letters of a neon liquor store sign, a frequent sight in urban neighborhoods, positioning the letters S-O-U-L upright while leaving the remaining letters upside down. Nari Ward uses collectible basketball cards in works including Act of God (2013) to draw connections between sports, entertainment and African American culture. The players have been blacked out leaving only the orange basketballs exposed, creating the illusion of a starry sky. 

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.

Nari Ward: Short Biography
Nari Ward's (b. 1963, St. Andrews, Jamaica) work has been widely exhibited on an international level, including solo exhibitions at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia (2011); Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams (2011); Institute of Visual Arts, Milwaukee (1997); Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston (2002); and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2001, 2000). The artist has taken part in important group exhibitions, including the Whitney Biennale (2006); Prospect 1 New Orleans (2008); and Documenta XI, Kassel (2003). 

In 2012, Nari Ward was the recipient of the Rome Prize, a yearly award bestowed by the American Academy in Rome to a select group of individuals who represent the highest standard of excellence in the arts and humanities. Additionally, he has received prestigious commissions from the United Nations and the World Health Organization, and awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the Pollock Krasner Foundation.

Nari Ward’s work is collected by numerous museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, North Carolina; Studio Museum, Harlem; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Whitney Museum, New York. 

Nari Ward is represented by Lehmann Maupin, New York.

Louisiana State University Museum of Art, 100 Lafayette St, Baton Rouge, LA 70801

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