Art Basel OVR: Miami Beach
Preview: December 2–4
Public Days: December 4–6
Lehmann Maupin is pleased to participate in the inaugural edition of OVR: Miami Beach with a solo presentation of work by New York-based artist Nari Ward. The digital showcase will focus on White Lies Subject, a series of cast paper works created during the artist’s residency at Dieu Donné Papermill from 2018–2019.
Widely celebrated for his sculptural installations of found objects, Ward often uses the discards of consumerism, mostly found in his neighborhood in Harlem, in ways that reveal the emotions inherent in everyday objects. Ward re-contextualizes the source materials within his work to create complex, metaphorical juxtapositions that confront social and political issues surrounding race, poverty, and consumer culture.
In his White Lies Subject series, Ward carefully molded handmade paper to mimic in size and appearance the makeshift cardboard signs held by people asking for assistance in the form of food or money. In contrast to these, Ward’s works carry cryptic lines such as “Invest in Dubai Properties” or “Can I trust you?”—phrases commonly used as disarming mechanisms to lure victims of email phishing scams.
The “Nigerian prince” email scam, also known as “Nigerian letter” scams or “foreign money exchanges,” is one of the oldest Internet frauds. These letters typically begin with an email from an individual claiming to be overseas royalty and promising the reader a share of an investment opportunity or fortune—one they can’t get out of the country without help. “I started getting really intrigued by the sentiment behind each request,” Ward stated, “I’m always interested in the things that people don’t want to see anymore. So, I asked myself if there is anything redemptive about these lies.”
For this body of work Ward gathered dozens of emails from his spam folder—an intangible approach to collecting “junk” material—and focused solely on their subject lines in an attempt to find the intention behind them. He then transferred each line into handmade paper, a pure and dignified material, to give these phrases a place in the physical world. Ward stated, “For me the sense of them being recreated to be an artifice is an act of redemption, as they are now present and quantified.” By giving these phrases physical form, the artist takes away any agency they might have once carried. “The work is reclaiming the fiction to be in service of craft, not lies."
Embedded in the title is the phrase “white lies”, which are commonly understood as harmless lies told to avoid hurting someone's feelings—with the color white being a signifier of permissible indiscretions not subject to severe judgement. In the case of phishing emails, Ward reflects on the danger caused by the intangibility and anonymity of the letters, questioning “who is behind these?” The artist also casts doubt on the authenticity of the news media at large, particularly in recent years with the rise of “fake news,” but also historically, in how documentation of events has been manipulated to empower racial injustice in America.
Accompanying this presentation is Gift of God, a new video work that documents the making of White Lies Subject. In it, the artist can be seen manipulating the fibers of the paper by embellishing the white pulp with gold to heighten their notion of value and materiality. Ward believes in the seductive power of gold to draw attention and add value to virtually any object. Reflecting on his use of gold, Ward states, “Even in talking about these white lies, you have to embellish them to make it visible.”
About the Artist
Nari Ward received a BA from City University of New York, Hunter College in 1989, and an MFA from City University of New York, Brooklyn College in 1992. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TX (2019); New Museum, New York, NY (2019); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston,MA (2017); Socrates Sculpture Park, New York, NY (2017); The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, PA (2016); Pérez Art Museum Miami, FL (2015); Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2015); Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, MA (2011); Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA (2002); and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2001, 2000). Select group exhibitions featuring his work include Objects Like Us, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT (2018-2019); UPTOWN: nastywomen/badhombres, El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY (2017); Black: Color, Material, Concept, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (2015); The Great Mother, the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Palazzo Reale, Milan, Italy (2015); NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, New Museum, New York, NY (2013); Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Rotunda, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY (2010); the Whitney Biennial, New York, NY (2006); Landings, Documenta XI, Kassel, Germany (2002); Projects: How to Build and Maintain the Virgin Fertility of Our Soul, MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY (1997); the Whitney Biennial, New York, NY (1995); and Cardinal Points of the Arts, 45th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (1993).
Ward’s work is in numerous international public and private collections, including Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD; the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; the Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; GAM, Galleria Civica di arte, Torino, Italy; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, Turkey; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC; National Gallery of Victoria, Southbank, Australia; the New York Public Library, New York, NY; Pérez Art Museum Miami, FL; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.
Ward has received numerous honors and distinctions including the Fellowship Award, The United States Artists, Chicago (2020); Vilcek Prize in Fine Arts, Vilcek Foundation, New York (2017); the Joyce Award, The Joyce Foundation, Chicago (2015), the Rome Prize, American Academy of Rome (2012), and awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1998), the Pollock-Krasner Foundation (1996); and the National Endowment for the Arts (1994). Ward has also received commissions from the United Nations and the World Health Organization.
About Lehmann Maupin
Rachel Lehmann and David Maupin founded Lehmann Maupin in 1996. The gallery represents a diverse range of contemporary artists and estates from around the world. Since inception, Lehmann Maupin has been instrumental in introducing international artists in new geographies. This mission has resulted in historic first exhibitions in New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul. The gallery opened its newest location in London in October 2020.