This special exhibition at Lehmann Maupin Hong Kong will be the first presentation of Nari Ward’s work in Hong Kong and the first time the two artists are in dialogue with one another. The exhibition will highlight the ways both Robin Rhode and Ward uniquely engage with the wall through an accumulation of marks that produce large-scale drawings steeped in socio-political subtext.
Based in New York, Ward is renowned for his ability to combine politics and historical references with personal identity, creating work that is unifying and humanistic at a time of extreme division worldwide. Rhode, who is now based in Berlin, came of age in the newly post-apartheid South Africa and was exposed to novel forms of creative expression motivated by the spirit of the individual rather than dictated by a political or social agenda. Together, Rhode and Ward offer a unique perspective of our complex socio-political world through their politically subversive work.
Following his critically-lauded retrospective We the People that premiered at the New Museum, Ward has established himself as an opposing voice amidst current dominant narratives. Distancing himself from superficial interpretation and overt political commentary, Ward instead provides a perspective on the dichotomy of power and its aesthetic and cultural manifestations. Early in his career Ward built a reputation for repurposing found objects and placing them in juxtapositions that highlight their functional purposes, cultural associations, and metaphorical potential. Often choosing media sourced from his neighborhood, his proximity and intimacy to these materials allowed Ward to subtly incorporate his own lived experience into the work. This methodology has persisted throughout his career, evolving as he has pushed the boundaries of his dominant medium of sculpture and assemblage into wall mounted works that engage with the history of art as well as consumer culture and social justice issues.
Rhode is known for his photographic series that merge photography, performance, drawing, and sculpture to create visual narratives that are brought to life using quotidian materials such as soap, charcoal, chalk, and paint. Rhode often uses walls that stand in socially disadvantaged districts, where he documents a sole protagonist interacting with murals that the artist paints onto the wall's surface. Rhode has created works on public walls in Johannesburg and Berlin, and more recently in the city of Jericho. In a succession of photographs, the movements of the actor appear to alter the two-dimensional renderings, compressing space and time and transforming the urban landscape into a fictional storyboard. In contrast to Graffiti and Street Art, however, Rhode is not interested in what he leaves behind in the urban context, but rather in the process of creation. Step by step, he photographically documents the development of narratives on his stone canvas, which in turn bears marks of its own history.
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