New York, 510 West 26th Street
Renowned sculptor Melvin Edwards spent 2016 at Oklahoma Contemporary, an art center situated in Oklahoma City where Edwards collected metal scraps from industrial zones to produce sculptures on view at Alexander Gray Associates. Edwards’ study of experience shared by Africa and its diasporas has found its reflection on rigid and intricate sculptures in which industrial materials gain poetic resonance. Following his 2015 retrospective at Nasher Sculpture Center in Texas, the exhibition introduces three-dimensional mixed-media works in which utilitarian and labor-related materials such as tools, chains, and barbed wire blend and form narratives on identity, heritage, and belonging.
The influence of Texas and its neighboring cities has been an important thread in works by Edwards who was born and raised in this state as an African-American man and artist. Metals, chains, and handcuffs are repeating elements in his eminent body of work not only as mute and multi-faceted objects, but also reminders of the painful and wounded history of race in America. His interpretation of African identity on a national and global scale bears equally empowering and vulnerable works that at the same time deliver a vivid perspective on sculpture genre in the United States for the last five decades.
“The title came about a little later, but I realized I was developing a body of work. I just didn’t want them stuck in formalist criticism; I wanted to make you think about why I made the work. For me, the whole thing about modern art is, you can invent your own game and all the rules. It’s just a matter of, does it come out vital as work? That’s the kind of thing that allowed me to think broadly even though it looks like I’m working narrowly,” answers Edwards in an interview with Michael Brenson on BOMB Magazine when asked about the meaning of his titles for his ongoing Lynch Fragments series.
The exhibition runs through May 20, 2017.