New York

Nari Ward

Deitch Projects

A complex compression of a complex relationship, Nari Ward’s Happy Smilers: Duty-Free Shopping, 1996, examined not only what it means for a New Yorker to visit the West Indies but what it means for a West Indian to live in New York. This rich installation opened as a dig at tourism, with an anteroom painted a cheerful yellow and hung with empty plastic soda bottles, including a drink called Tropical Fantasy and island music courtesy of the Happy Smilers, a long-ago Jamaican band (Ward’s uncle sang in it) whose name today seems a knowing parody of Aunt Jemima stereotypes. Fine, but rather obvious; the main space was more surprising and more contradictory.

Here was a mass of battered home furnishings, all stacked together jigsawlike into a thick high wall and neatly wrapped and tied with firehose. Between this barricade and the gallery walls was a narrow corridor, which viewers had to thread

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