Frieze | New York | Main Galleries Section | Stand D40
Alexander Gray Associates presented a selection of work by Melvin Edwards (b.1937), spanning his five decade career, including large-scale sculpture, works on paper, and examples from the artist’s renowned series “Lynch Fragments.” Coinciding with the artist’s critically acclaimed retrospective, organized by the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas and the Columbus Museum of Art, OH, and on the heels of Edwards’ participation in the 2015 56th Venice Biennale, Italy, the works on view presented an intimate portrait of the artist as a committed sculptor, deeply engaged with formal concerns and socio-political narrative.
Central to the presentation was Dancing in Nigeria (1974–78), a large-scale sculpture that directly references Edwards’ connection with Nigerian culture, music, and architecture. The title comes from a dance Edwards saw during his first trip to Nigeria in 1970, where he encountered the West African musical forms of Highlife, Afrobeat, and Jùjú, which he associates with this sculpture. Dancing in Nigeria was created during a unique and under-explored moment in Edwards’ practice in which he painted free-standing sculptures, and will be on view for the first time in twenty years.
Pivotal within Edwards’ practice, the “Lynch Fragments” are wall sculptures that incorporate complex forms rendered from welding steel objects. He began the series in 1963, a year of widespread racial and political violence in the United States. Since the 1970s, through this series, Edwards has explored notions of nostalgia by honoring individuals and investigating his personal interest in African culture. The “Lynch Fragments” often incorporate geometric bases to establish a consistent foundation for different forms welding steel forms. Edwards typically incorporates chains, hammers, nails, padlocks, scissors, spikes, and wrenches, as evidenced in Freedom Fighter (1992) and A Symptom of (1999). These wall reliefs present abstract forms using materials that retain referentiality. The dimensions and placement of the works are crucial to their effect, evoking the human head and the attendant complexities and nuances of identity, both personal and political.
Also on view were early works on paper that Edwards produced using spray paint and watercolor to imprint the negative of two elements: chains and barbed wire. These two components would become key in his barbed wire installations exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1970, the first solo exhibition of an African-American sculptor at the museum. The artist’s use of these materials in his two-dimensional work stems primarily from formal concerns, as he explores the aesthetic qualities and complex historical meaning behind this medium.
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Frieze New York is one of the world's leading contemporary art fairs. Like Frieze London, Frieze New York is housed in a bespoke temporary structure, suffused with natural light. The fair is located in Randall’s Island Park, NY.