Search the whole artnet database

  Magazine Home  |  News  |  Features  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  People  |  Horoscope  
     
Back to Reviews 96





Happy Smilers:
Duty Free Shopping,
1996



ArtNet Worldwide 1997


















Happy Smilers:
Duty Free Shopping,
1996


















Happy Smilers:
Duty Free Shopping,
1996 



nari ward   
at jeffrey deitch projects 
by Robert Mahoney


Nari Ward does slice of life art, but at a 
chunk of life scale. His "Happy Smilers" 
takes real life and real feelings, and puts 
them in an art gallery. A "Happy Smilers" 
awning, yellow painted walls, and festive 
drink containers welcomes the viewer. Like 
any low-cost papaya (or other) shop in the 
city, it projects a stereotyped vision of 
"local color" or ethnicity. Ward then makes
the gallery itself into the world of the 
alley that exists behind the shop. A large 
chunk of real fire escape hangs from the 
ceiling. Below, a vast barricade of dingy, 
weather-beaten, used furniture, all held 
together by cut strips of fire hose. 
Couches form the foundation, fans, air 
conditioners, refrigerators, ironing 
boards, radios and other objects the 
battlements. From large amplifiers, set on 
a tackily carpeted stage, suggestive of 
one of those social clubs that 
periodically get torched in the city, 
tonight's performance seems to be the 
sound of rain falling on an air 
conditioner. From sound effect, to fire 
escape, to the sandy turf of the barricade, 
one gets the idea that Ward isvisualizing 
not an actual space, but the space which a 
thought of "what's going on down there" 
from high up in the alley creates, full of 
fear, fascination, pity, amazement, 
philosophy and charm. The presence of fire 
hose interjects the trauma of burned-out 
life as well. Fear of new surroundings, of 
New York, of homelessness, or fire, 
conjures strange "I'm going to end up on 
the streets" scenarios, and we mentally 
prepare. Thus does real homelessness act 
as psychological blueprint or cautionary 
tale for emotional displacement on other 
social levels. Ward creates this syndrome 
with incredible wisdom, power and effect. 


artnet—The Art World Online. ©2014 Artnet Worldwide Corporation. All rights reserved. artnet® is a registered trademark of Artnet Worldwide Corporation, New York, NY, USA.