Socrates Sculpture Park, a museum and public park, is a well-known haven for New Yorkers seeking stimulating and surprising art in the outdoors. Located in Long Island City and open every day till sundown, the park offers New Yorkers the opportunity to stroll through multimedia installations and take in views of the water – always for free. This summer, it features an individual exhibition by Nari Ward, Hunter College Professor of Studio Art, making Professor Ward the first artist in the park’s thirty year history to receive a park-wide solo commission. His installation, entitled G.O.A.T, again, spans the entire 5-acre park, and consists of six newly commissioned artworks that employ many of Professor Ward’s go-to materials: fire hoses, broken glass, tubing – found materials repurposed and re-contextualized to create large scale art pieces.
This exhibit features variations and explorations of goats, animals that have mythologically mined for both their hubris and their vulnerability. G.O.A.T., which stands for Greatest Of All Time, refers dually to Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, and to the often used descriptor of sports heroes, famously Muhammad Ali. With the political anxiety in the air, Professor Ward wanted to blend his frequent brand of absurdism with a more sobering lesson about grandiosity and tribalism.
Seeking to honor his heritage – Professor Ward was born in Jamaica and lives and works in Harlem — Professor Ward has placed 3 sticks protruding from the top of many of his goat sculptures, a reference to building practices on Jamaican huts. He has also erected a replica of the Apollo Theater marquee in the garden, an homage to the performance development grounds of many Black artists – and a bit of wordplay on the political theme (“pol” is embedded within “Apollo,” after all).
“I look for the strangeness in my work,” Professor Ward says. “Strange is good because strange means that you have to consider what you might know. It’s not necessary to take or make something super new – I try to take something familiar and make it so that you look at it in a new way.”
G.O.A.T., again will be on exhibit through September 4, 2017.
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