This sculptural installation is comprised of multicolored shoelaces drilled into the wall, spelling out text. Ward has selected the words from Emma Lazarus’s poem The New Colossus, which is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. The arrangement of the text recalls a staircase, starting at the bottom with “tempest-tost,” and ascending through “wretched,” “homeless,” “yearning,” “huddled,” “refuse,” “poor,” and finally, at the very top, “tired.”
Ward first explored shoelaces as a medium in Crying Form, Rising Symbol, 2010, where shoelaces create the outline of a star. The following year he created the first of what would become three versions of We the People, using the laces to spell out words, in this case the beginning of the Preamble to the United States Constitution. This version, featuring multicolored laces set into a white wall, is in the Speed Museum of Art. In We the People (black version), 2015, in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the laces are set into a black wall. The third version, We the People, 2017, is on permanent display at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library.
Ward was born in Jamaica and immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of 12; the family settled in Brooklyn, New York. Ward has lived in the New York City area ever since, earning his BA at Hunter College and his MFA at Brooklyn College. He became a U.S. citizen in 2011. Ward received the Vilcek Prize in Fine Arts in 2017 for his body of found-object assemblage artwork that invites both public discourse and intimate dialogue on topics including race, poverty, and Black and Caribbean diasporic identities.
[Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, CA];
Los Angeles. Jeffrey Deitch. Nari Ward: Say Can You See. June 5-August 21, 2021.
New York. Vilcek Foundation. Nari Ward:Home of the Brave. May 31, 2022-February 3, 2023.