ADAA: The Art Show | November 3 – 7, 2021 | Booth B6 |
Park Avenue Armory, New York, NY
Alexander Gray Associates presented recent sculptures and paintings by Melvin Edwards. One of the foremost African American artists of his generation, Edwards’s artworks juxtapose disparate materials and objects to reflect on the intertwined histories of race, labor, and violence.
Edwards remains best known for his celebrated series of Lynch Fragments. Distinguished by their formal simplicity and powerful materiality, these small wall reliefs combine agricultural tools with industrial components to infuse content into the reductive language of Minimalism. The Gallery’s presentation foregrounds the series and also features sculptures from other major bodies of work, including a selection of Rockers. Edwards created the works on view during his 2019 residency at Auroras, a project space in São Paulo, Brazil.
Edwards first traveled to Brazil more than three decades ago and was immediately fascinated by Afro-Brazilian history. During his residency at Auroras, he welded together steel elements like chains, shackles, and hammers to construct nuanced compositions that reference the country’s role in the Atlantic slave trade. Drawing parallels between his family’s story and that of Afro-Brazilians, works like Numunake Inike OK (2019) celebrate West African blacksmithing traditions while highlighting a history of subjugation and brutality.
Also autobiographical, Coco Variation SP (2019) and other freestanding sculptures directly reference the artist’s family. Serving as a homage to Edwards’s grandmother, Coco, this Rocker expands on the kineticism of Alexander Calder and Jean Tinguely’s works. Its use of chain, which Edwards describes as “syncopating” its movement, also imbues its form with menace. Commonly understood as a symbol of enslavement, for Edwards, chains also suggest “… connections [or] chains of love." Indeed, the artist points out that for African blacksmiths, who must forge each link individually, the material historically represents the acme of their craft and is a test of skill.
Further underscoring the primacy of chain in the artist’s practice, works like Outra linha (Another line) (2019) feature undulating blood-red silhouettes of the material. A tribute to the African slaves and their descendants in Salvador da Bahia—the site of one of the largest slave rebellions in Brazil—Edwards’s image underscores the trauma of slavery and colonization. Ultimately capitalizing on what the curator Catherine Craft calls the “the multivalent practical possibilities of … material,” this and other works welcome viewers to meditate on the legacy of the African Diaspora.
Melvin Edwards’s work has been widely exhibited nationally and internationally. A survey of his large-scale sculpture organized by Public Art Fund, Melvin Edwards: Brighter Days, is currently on view in City Hall Park, New York, NY. In 1993, the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, NY organized Melvin Edwards Sculpture: A Thirty-Year Retrospective 1963–1993. In 2015, the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, TX presented a second retrospective, Melvin Edwards: Five Decades, traveled to the Zimmerli Museum of Art, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ (2015) and to the Columbus Museum of Art, OH (2016). Other recent solo exhibitions include Melvin Edwards: Crossroads, Baltimore Museum of Art, MD (2019), traveled to Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA (2020). Edwards’s work is represented in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), CA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, NY; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), CA; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, among others. Edwards taught at Rutgers University from 1972 to 2002. In 2014, he received an honorary doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA.
About ADAA: The Art Show
Organized annually by the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), The Art Show presents curated presentations by the nation’s leading fine art dealers, providing audiences a selection of works from the late 19th century through today.