Rebecca Ward: Unraveling Tradition

In a delightfully revealing exhibition, shucked & silked at Barbara Davis Gallery, the multifaceted Rebecca Ward presents new work that not only references on her ambitious installation practices with electrical tape, but also indicates interesting new territory her studio practice is headed. Ward’s newest offering highlights her material fluency through her synthesis of painting, installation and sculpture. Claude Smith, Albuquerque/Santa Fe Contributor

Rebecca Ward | Believers and Deceivers, 2013, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches; image courtesy of Barbara Davis Gallery

Embracing and drawing upon practices that have long been associated with women and domesticity, Ward simultaneously references the male dominated vernaculars of minimalism and geometric abstraction, while using her own material concerns to offer a more delicate meditation of process and form. Many of the works have been painstakingly deconstructed one thread at a time, an intriguing effect that leaves a composition seemingly in a state of entropy; others, are parts to the whole, assembled or stitched together to create the full composition.  She unabashedly derives many these works through the reclamation silk, cotton batting and leather (materials traditionally associated with craft and hobbyist practices) while highlighting the labor-intense process necessary in creating each work. 

Rebecca Ward |
Walking After Midnight, 2013, oil, dye, and cotton thread on canvas, 40 x 40 inches; photo courtesy Barbara Davis Gallery

Rebecca Ward |
Coat of Many Colors, oil and cotton thread on batting over panel, 40 x 30 inches; photo courtesy of Barbara Davis Gallery

Ward’s use of material also seeks to remove the objects from their traditional relationships or associations as merely paintings, and instead, proposes new, alternative possibilities as they become more sculptural, three-dimensional objects. One of her most successful examples of this hybrid painting/sculpture is X. Entering the gallery, the viewer finds the piece resting on the ground and leaning up against the wall. Stretched in a painted but transparent silk, the surface allows for the otherwise hidden stretcher bars to seen from the front, the resulting structural X produces a complementary shadow on the wall behind. 

Rebecca Ward | X, 2013, 
acrylic and lacquer on silk over frame 48 x 36 inches; photo courtesy of Barbara Davis Gallery

In other more subtly intriguing works, The Reverend II, Ranch House I and Ranch House II, we see Ward’s de-constructivist approach play out with illusory effect. The Reverend II features bold yellow lines that cut through the lower portion of curtain-like façade of the canvas, simultaneously activating its surface and revealing the wall occupying the space directly behind the painting. In the painterly diptych, Ranch House I and Ranch House II, Ward has applied bleach to effectively create the appearance of folds in the otherwise flat, planar surface of the canvas–a spatial effect that is once again heightened by her proclivity for unraveling her compositions.

Rebecca Ward | The Reverend II, 2013, 
acrylic and lacquer on canvas 52 x 62 inches; image courtesy of Barbara Davis Gallery

Rebecca Ward | Detail, The Reverend II, 2013, 
acrylic and lacquer on canvas 52 x 62 inches; image courtesy of Barbara Davis Gallery

Rebecca Ward | Ranch House I (right) and Ranch House II, 2013, 
bleach on canvas 40 x 30 inches; image courtesy of Barbara Davis Gallery

In an interview with Fred Paginton for ARTslant in July, Ward stated her attraction towards found and reusable objects was a way to not only eliminate waste, but to continually recycle things in her work, a decision that speaks to the potential of such actions to become politically charged. Having cited an inspiration in the Arte Povera movement that was popular in Italy during the 60s and 70s, a movement that advocated for the rejection of consumerist culture, Ward’s work embraces the use of unconventional material and style and suggests a blurring of the boundary that separates art and life. shucked & silked offers a fresh perspective and suggests an exciting direction from a promising young artist.


Rebecca Ward currently lives and works in New York City. She received her BA in Fine Arts from University of Texas in 2006, and an MFA in Fine Arts from School of Visual Arts in 2012. She has exhibited extensively in the United States, Europe, and South America. Museum solos include The Museum of Contemporary Art, Raleigh. Notable solo exhibitions include Ronchini Gallery, London, UK (2013), East Hampton Shed, East Hampton, NY (2013), and a two person show with Carla Accardi, Bibo’s Place, Todi, Italy (2013). Her work is included in public collections including the Museum of New and Old Art, Tasmania. Ward participated in group exhibitions including Maurizio Cattellan’s The Virgins at Family Business, New York (2012), curated by Marilyn Minter, Post-Op at Mixed Greens Gallery, New York (2012), among others.

Claude Smith is an arts administrator and educator living and working in Albuquerque, NM.


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