“The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government.”
On Presidents’ Day, Crystal Bridges looks forward to the installation of a recently acquired artwork that celebrates the US Constitution: the document that established and continues to guide the government of the United States of America.
We the People (black version), by Nari Ward, is an 8 x 27-foot wall sculpture presenting the opening words of the Constitution’s preamble, spelled out in the elegant original script, each letter outlined in shoelaces that hang from perforations in the gallery wall.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
–Preamble to the US Constitution
“We the People calls on us to reflect on our bedrock values as Americans through its translation of that iconic text into everyday materials,” said Crystal Bridges Curator, Chad Alligood. “It references our shared history in all its messiness, its beauty, and even its sadness. Yet, the work remains hopeful. We invite visitors to find their own meaning and power in these words; they remind us that American democracy requires an inclusive embrace of our individual differences, like each colorful shoelace that comprises the whole.”
Nari Ward was born in St. Andrews, Jamaica, and moved to the United States as a child. As an immigrant and eventually a naturalized citizen, he had a unique vantage point from which to observe American identity. Working in and around New York City, Ward often uses the detritus from the streets around him—materials that he gathers and then presents anew in his artworks. Ward’s work riffs on the experiences of immigrants and people of color who are often marginalized in American society: the disenfranchised, the overlooked, the disregarded. His work serves as a call to action to challenge the societal and political power structures that lie at the root of these issues, and embrace what Washington referred to as the “right of the people to make and alter their constitutions of government.”
Last week, Ward was presented with the Vilcek Prize, a $100,000 award given to an immigrants to the US who have made “Lasting contributions to American society through their extraordinary achievements.”
We the People will be installed in Crystal Bridges’ 1940s to Now Gallery early this spring. In the meantime, readers in or traveling to New York City this week can watch another incarnation of the work being created by the artist himself. From February 20 through 24, 2017, visitors to the New-York Historical Society will be able to watch as Ward installs a version of We the People at the in New York City, using of shoelaces donated by members of the public. The artwork will become part of the institution’s permanent collection.
In April, Nari Ward will be visiting Crystal Bridges to take part in the upcoming Art in Conversation Symposium on Friday, April 7-8. The public is invited to take part in this thought-provoking symposium in which artists, curators, and scholars will convene at Crystal Bridges to explore issues of identity, race, class, gender, and the environment through the art in the permanent collection. Ward will kick off the symposium through an onstage conversation with Crystal Bridges Curator, Lauren Haynes.
Additional artists at the symposium include Ghada Amer, Pam Longobardi, Nathalie Miebach, Jeffrey Gibson, Sandow Birk, and Michael Waugh, Click the link above for more information and to reserve tickets.