May 4, 1937 |
Mel Edwards (born 1937) is an American sculptor, based in New York City. He has had more than a dozen one-person show exhibits and been in over four dozen group shows. He has had solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, New Jersey. His works, characterised by the use of straight-edged triangular and rectilinear forms, often have a political content.
In 1964, he began teaching at San Bernardino Valley College. He went on to teach at the Chouinard Art Institute (now the California Institute of the Arts), the Orange County Community College in New York, and the University of Connecticut. His first one-person exhibition was held at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California, in 1965. In 1972 he began teaching at Rutgers University, where he taught classes in sculpture, drawing and Third World artists until his retirement from the school in 2002. In 1975 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.
A 30-year retrospective of his sculpture was held in 1993 at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, New York. Several of his works are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
His awards include a Fulbright Fellowship to Zimbabwe, and through grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. His research into Third World visual culture has taken him to Morocco, Brazil, China, Cuba, and Nigeria. Inspiration for Edwards comes from his ancestral home, Africa, where he currently spends several months each year working as a sculptor in Senegal. He is a resident of New York City, and is represented by Alexander Gray Associates, a contemporary art gallery located in New York City. In 1992, he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member, and became a full Academician in 1994.
He is most well known for his "Lynch Fragments". Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, these small-scale welded metal wall reliefs were developed in three periods: 1963 to 1967, 1973 to 1974, and 1978 to the present. There are now more than 200 pieces in the series. Edwards believes the series is metaphorical of the struggles experienced by African Americans. A variety of metal objects including hammer heads, scissors, locks, chains and railroad splices, are employed as the raw materials for these works. The sculptures, usually no more than a foot tall, are hung on the wall at eye level. One critic noted "their brutish power conjures the instruments used to subjugate African Americans during centuries of slavery and oppression." Edwards is also known for his large public sculpture, smaller freestanding works, the kinetic "Rockers" series, and works executed in the medium of printmaking. His large-scale works include "Mt. Vernon" and "Homage to Billie Holiday and the Young Ones at Soweto".
- Samella S. Lewis, African American Art and Artists, University of California Press, 2003, p210. ISBN 0-520-23935-0
- Fellows, The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
- Encyclopedia of African American Women Writers, vol. 1, p. 121.
- "Premonition" (Part of the Lynch Fragment Series), Birmingham Museum of Art.
- Birmingham Museum of Art: Guide to the Collection. Birmingham, Ala: Birmingham Museum of Art. 2010. p. 254. ISBN 978-1-904832-77-5.