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

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the October 1996 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.