Acclaimed Irish artist Robyn Ward is set to open his first solo exhibition in the US this month with the launch of Walking in the Dark at 82 Gansevoort Street in New York.
Curated by Shai Baitel, artistic director of MAM Shanghai, the immersive experience which opens 15th May features twenty-two large painted canvases and six freestanding sculptures based on the themes of migration and trauma, both national and personal.
Though known for his figurative work, Ward explores these themes through abstract compositions and mixed media sculptures which speak to his nomadic lifestyle driven by a need for both escapism and its darker counterpart, avoidance.
Born in Dublin and raised in Belfast during the tail end of the Irish troubles, Robyn Ward started painting from an early age, and was expelled from school due to painting graffiti on the school roof. He has worked consistently on his art ever since, and spends his time between New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City.
His work asks questions such as ‘Why do people roam?’ ‘What is the aftermath of perpetual movement?’ and his works often display a nomadic sensibility which explores the deeper reasons for such roaming.
There is an abundance of hidden psychological, political, and emotional meaning to be discovered in Walking in the Dark, exemplified by the labyrinthine and shaded design of the space where the artworks are being shown.
Like the act of walking in the dark, viewing Ward’s work requires one’s eyes to adjust to see what would otherwise not be detected.
Using wet, loose brush strokes with distinctive markings on the oversized canvases, he tells his story through a nostalgic veil of innocence and naivety, revealing snapshots of the past while simultaneously obscuring or hiding others, with each layer depicting different fragments of time that are screenshots of the artist’s life.
It narrates a story that is both timely and provocative, reflecting the artist’s personal experience with chaos, governance, and violence, while commenting on the breakdown of society and referencing to both historical and modern-day global disputes. While engaging with themes of destruction and conflict, Ward’s work addresses his own life, defined by a perpetual sense of movement and a constant feeling of geographical restlessness.
Walking in the Dark
15th May – 29th June
82 Gansevoort Street
New York NY 10014
Opening hours 10.30am – 6pm
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Born in Dublin in 1982 and raised in Belfast during the tail end of the Irish troubles, Robyn Ward was at school when he got into painting graffiti on the school roof, which got him expelled.
Ward made a living taking jobs across various bars and building sites, but the painting never stopped, and he began to get work into shows, most often large abstractions, plus some graffiti-like signage and some with a figurative element.
As Ward started selling more work, he took to living a nomadic life, taking studios in London, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Mexico City and New York.
Ward worked under pseudonyms and different collectives throughout the years, until breaking the
cover of anonymity in 2017. He has exhibited at the Museo Tamayo & the Museo Nacional De Arte in
Mexico City, with paintings included in auctions and group exhibitions in London, Los Angeles, New York,
Paris and Hong Kong. He currently works between New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City.
ABOUT THE CURATOR
Shai Baitel, born in Israel in 1975, is arts executive with an extensive experience in the art and culture fields. Best known as the co-founder of Mana Contemporary, a global, multidisciplinary and comprehensive arts center, Baitel currently serves as the artistic director of the Modern Art Museum (MAM) in Shanghai and has worked on projects as creative director with the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, among other institutions.
After originating Bob Dylan: Retrospectrum in 2019, which was MAM Shanghai’s first experience-based exhibition, he brought the iconic exhibition to the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum in Miami during Art Basel 2021. He also collaborated closely with architect Zaha Hadid’s partners on the opening of Hadid’s first solo exhibition (China) and a simultaneous celebration, held in Hadid’s first and last residential property in New York City.
He is a writer and contributor for several prominent publications.