402 T.P. Reign Bow
In recent years, Ward has continued to look to Harlem as a source of inspiration for his work, especially as the neighborhood has undergone dramatic changes due to gentrification. Although early signs of the gentrification of Harlem began in the early 90s, in recent years the neighborhood has seen an explosion of luxury apartment buildings and higher end retail stores, which to some may represent an improvement, but to others means that family owned businesses and long-time residents from the African-American community have been more frequently pushed out. T.P. Reign Bow speaks to these changes and the tense relationship between institutions of power and authority and local communities of color in cities like New York. The work recreates a tactical police tower of the kind that is often installed in neighborhoods deemed to be high-crime areas. These structure are ostensibly meant to result in safe public spaces, but for Ward this is a conflicted kind of safety, as it often comes alongside an atmosphere of surveillance and control. Ward’s structure counters the rigid authority of the police tower with a vulnerability, transforming it into a kind of Rapunzel’s tower, watched over by the figure of a taxidermied fox, which Ward has named after the writer and activist Cornell West. Ward’s tower questions symbols of power and authority in public urban spaces and who they are serving to protect—the residents there now or those who would move in once it is deemed safe.
Audio guide: “Nari Ward: We the People,” New Museum, New York, 2019.