b. St. Andrew, Jamaica, 1963
Suspect on Ground, 2012
Wood, magnets, nylon, printed fleece blankets
72 x 48 x 4 inches
Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin,
New York and Hong Kong
The series of works that Suspect on Ground comes from was inspired by a scrap of paper that Nari Ward found on the street of his Harlem neighborhood. After noticing the NYPD insignia printed on it, he realized that the paper was part of an official report used to document a so-called “stop-and-frisk” encounter. A part of what is known as the “Broken Windows” method of law enforcement, which is meant to deter significant crimes by focusing on lesser infractions, pedestrians considered suspicious by police could be patted down and questioned. Faced with overwhelming evidence of racial profiling—over 80 percent of people held for such “stops” were black or Hispanic—the policy was ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court judge in 2013.
Ward was struck by the language used in the police report, which seemed disturbingly detached from the physical reality of detaining and searching another person’s body and property. For Suspect on Ground, Ward printed the phrases found on the report on white fleece blankets, cut them apart, and created a layered collage of words and potential actions held together by powerful magnets. The limbs and head of a disembodied figure are obscured by the form’s bureaucratic language—like a blind game of pin-the-tail-in-the-donkey, it is as if it could stick to anything.