In May 2019, the New Museum presented Alchemy: Found Material in Contemporary African-American Art, an artist panel discussion convened in conjunction with Nari Ward’s New Museum exhibition “We the People.” Taking its cues from Ward’s use of found objects, as seen in his show and featuring an intergenerational group of artists, including Willie Cole, Abigail DeVille, and Shinique Smith. The conversation touched on the uses of found and repurposed objects, clothing, sound, photography, and other materials. Together with moderator Andrianna Campbell, the artists considered how these materials speak to themes of culture, identity, and history within African-American contemporary art.
Nari Ward is known for transforming everyday objects, often gathered from the environment around his studio, to produce his site-specific installations. Ward’s selection of objects or materials—baby strollers, fire hoses, baseball bats, cooking trays, bottles, and shopping carts—is rooted in their connections to individual lives and shared stories. “I am excited about an object’s transformation,” says Ward. “What it means, its historical resonance in a contemporary art dialogue, its significance within the community … it is a type of alchemy.”