American, born Jamaica, 1963
Nari Ward transforms detritus collected from his neighborhood in Harlem—including garbage bags, abandoned baby strollers, glass bottles, fire hoses, oil drums, and old televisions—into thought-provoking sculptural installations. Weaving together culture, history, and personal narrative, he explores issues surrounding race, poverty, consumer culture, sex, and immigration.
Loisaidas LiquorsouL belongs to a series of works Ward began in 2010 that consider dilapidated liquor store signs as urban artifacts. The idea for the series first occurred to the artist when he realized that the word “soul” was embedded in the word “liquors” in an unlit sign above a ramshackle building. The title of each work includes the word “LiquorsouL”; “Loisaidas” is a Spanish slang term for New York’s Lower East Siders. On the edge of where the two signs meet, Ward incorporated artificial flowers, shoelaces, and plastic shoe tips. The artist often utilizes these materials in his practice because they echo shared memories. In this work, for example, such elements allude to roadside memorials. “When a kid is shot or even an older person dies, people put up flowers and the person’s name maybe, and they always use alcohol bottles, half-drunk, or sometimes poured out for the person,” Ward explains. “In many religions alcohol serves as a metaphor, a reference to a rite of passage, and a move from one state to the next.”