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Melvin


Edwards

Melvin Edwards
Sculptor
New York, NY
2020 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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Melvin Edwards is a pioneer in the history of contemporary African American art and sculpture. Born in Houston, TX, Edwards began his artistic career at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, where he met and was mentored by the Hungarian painter Francis de Erdely. In 1965, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art organized his first solo exhibition, which launched his professional career. He moved to New York City in 1967. Shortly after his arrival, his work was exhibited at The Studio Museum in Harlem, and in 1970, he became the first African American sculptor to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

His practice reflects his engagement with the history of race, labor, and violence, as well as with themes of the African Diaspora. Making welding his preferred medium, his sculptures are studies in abstraction and minimalism. Ranging from colorful painted sculptures that expand on the Modernist vocabulary of artists like Alexander Calder to barbed wire installations to tangled amalgamations of agricultural and industrial elements, his work is distinguished by its formal simplicity and powerful materiality. He remains best known for his series of Lynch Fragments, welded combinations of disparate objects that invite competing narratives of oppression and creation. This body of work spans three periods: the early 1960s, when the artist responded to racial violence in the United States; the early 1970s, when his activism concerning the Vietnam War motivated him to return to the series; and from 1978 to the present, as he continues to explore a variety of themes, including his personal connection to Africa. In addition, he has a longstanding commitment to public art. Since the 1960s, he has created sculptures for universities, public housing projects, and museums. Edwards’ large-scale sculptures extend his extraordinary range of aesthetic expression, reaffirming his commitment to abstraction.

Portrait photo by RossCollab.

  • Artwork by Melvin Edwards
    Chaino, 1964. Welded steel and chains, dimensions 62 × 102 × 26 inches.
 Photo courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
  • Artwork by Melvin Edwards
    Some Bright Morning, 1963. Welded steel, dimensions 14.5 × 9.3 × 5 inches. Photo courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
  • Artwork by Melvin Edwards
    Curtain for William and Peter, 1969/2012. Barbed wire and chain, dimensions 138.5 x 220 inches. Photo courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
  • Artwork by Melvin Edwards
    Homage to Coco, 1970. Painted steel and chain, dimensions 48 × 96 × 120 inches. Photo courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
  • Artwork by Melvin Edwards
    Dancing in Nigeria, 1974–1978. Painted welded steel, dimensions variable. Courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
Artwork by Melvin Edwards Artwork by Melvin Edwards Artwork by Melvin Edwards Artwork by Melvin Edwards Artwork by Melvin Edwards