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Nari Ward's "So Called" at the SCAD Museum of Art
Architectural Digest

In the courtyard of the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia, stands a small shack—a former candy store that was scheduled to be demolished but was saved by a local salvage yard. The building caught the eye of New York–based Jamaican artist Nari Ward, who had been commissioned by the museum to create a work for an upcoming solo show. The result was Spellbound, on view through June 27 as part of Ward's exhibition "So-Called," which itself is part of deFINE Art, the Savannah College of Art and Design's annual showcase of fine and contemporary art. This year’s edition features artist Xu Bing and includes shows by Naimar Ramírez, Matthew Day Jackson, and Ryoji Ikeda, among others.

 

For Spellbound, Ward shipped his old upright piano from Harlem and placed it in the center of the shack. A screen on the back of the piano shows a video dedicated to symbols of Savannah, like an old Baptist church that was once a stop on the Underground Railroad and the gravesite of Tomochichi, a Native American chief who was instrumental in the founding of the city. “There’s just so much history and so much that’s happened here, and there are a few monuments to the victors,” says Ward, “but we don’t really hear anything about the other folks who didn’t get their big statue.” On the other sides of piano, Ward has hung hundreds of keys. “One of the key things—no pun intended—of the installation was the notion of keys as a reference to places that are kind of lost,” he says. The keys may belong to places that no longer exist, like the candy shop, but a tiny piece of them lives on here in the installation.

 

Inside the museum is a survey of about a dozen of Ward’s recent works that highlight his penchant for using found objects. Here he has instilled these items with thought-provoking social commentary. On a wall hangs the phrase “We the People” in Old English composed of shoelaces, which Ward says is a material that references not only the body, but the worry of tripping over untied shoelaces. “It was also about reexamining that adage ‘We the People,’ which is such a powerful term,” says Ward, “but I think we don’t really think about what it means anymore.”