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ICA Pays Tribute to Nari Ward

Jamaican-American artist famed for use of found objects

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Jamaican-born artist Nari Ward finds inspiration in the most unlikely objects. Baseball bats, soda bottles, shoelaces, and discarded appliances are transformed into spectacular large-scaled sculptures, collages, and photography. The New York City–based Ward has earned an international reputation for incorporating found objects and transforming them into works that explore themes such as migration, democracy, homeland, and African American culture. His work is now the subject of a fascinating exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art titled Nari Ward: Sun Splashed, on view through September 4.

Born in Jamaica, Ward lived in New York for several years before becoming an American citizen in 2011. The tribulations, frustrations, and tensions he experienced through the process of naturalization were the inspiration for some of his most famous mixed-media pieces, many of them included in the show. While he has worked in a variety of mediums, including video and performance, he is best known for installations and sculptures made from found objects. The 43 works in Sun Splashed makes for a thought-provoking show that encourages visitors to reflect on what it means to be an American, especially in the context of the current political climate.

Highlights include We the People, an installation first displayed in 2011 that features the opening phrase of the US Constitution composed entirely of hand-dyed shoelaces, whose variety—they come in all shapes, colors, and lengths—is meant to evoke the diversity of this country’s people. Homeland Sweet Homeland (2012) is a richly textured piece that transforms the Miranda rights into a wall hanging, framed by a border of found objects like spoons and barbed wire. Land (2002-2014), a large scale “tree” comprising hundreds of tricycle and stroller wheels, is a metaphor for the masses of people currently seeking to migrate to new countries.

One of the show’s most striking pieces is Naturalization Drawing Table, an interactive installation based on Ward’s experience becoming a US citizen. The work gives visitors some insight into the bureaucracy that immigration entails. On select days, the last one being Thursday, August 17, from 5 to 8 p.m., participants can have a passport photo taken, fill out an Immigration and Naturalization Service naturalization form facsimile, have it notarized, and return it to Ward to display. Participants, who must be 16 or older with a valid photo ID, will receive a set of prints designed by the artist.

Nari Ward: Sun Splashed is at the ICA, 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, through September 4. The ICA is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, closed Monday. Admission is free for ICA members, youth age 17 and under, and students with a valid BU ID; general admission is $15, seniors are $13, and students are $10. Find directions here.

Liz Vanderau can be reached at vanderau@bu.edu.

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