Melvin Edwards: Five Decades
January 31, 2015 - May 10, 2015
In January 2015, the Nasher Sculpture Center inaugurated Melvin Edwards: Five Decades, a retrospective of the renowned American sculptor Melvin Edwards. Working primarily in welded steel, Edwards is perhaps best known for his Lynch Fragments, an ongoing series of small-scale reliefs born out of the social and political turmoil of the civil rights movement. Incorporating tools and other familiar objects, such as chains, locks, and ax heads, Edwards’s Lynch Fragments are abstract yet evocative, summoning a range of artistic, cultural, and historical references.
Spanning half a century, Edwards’s career has extended far beyond the Lynch Fragments. In 1970 he showed a groundbreaking installation of environmental barbed-wire sculptures at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the first solo exhibition by an African American sculptor held at the museum. Melvin Edwards: Five Decades featured a recreation by the artist of these works, in addition to midsize and large-scale sculptures, maquettes reflecting his long career as a public sculptor, rarely seen drawings, and a selection of his sketchbooks. Organized by the Nasher’s Associate Curator Catherine Craft, the exhibition traveled to the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University (September 1, 2015 - January 10, 2016) and the Columbus Museum of Art (February 12 - May 8, 2016). A richly illustrated scholarly catalogue accompanied the exhibition.
Born in Houston, Texas in 1937, Edwards attended college in Los Angeles, graduating with a BFA from the University of Southern California. In 1967, he moved to New York City, where he lives today, dividing his time between his studio in Plainfield, New Jersey and residences, with studios, in Accord, New York and Dakar, Senegal. His work is held in many US museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Melvin Edwards: Five Decades is organized by the Nasher Sculpture Center and is presented by the Henry Luce Foundation. Additional major support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger.