Melvin Edwards gimė 1937 m. Hjustone, JAV, gyvena ir dirba šalia Niujorko ir Dakare, Senegale. Edwardsas yra laikomas šiuolaikinio afroamerikiečių meno ir skulptūros pionieriumi. Jo karjera prasidėjo 1965 m. solo paroda Santos Barbaros meno muziejuje, Pietų Kalifornijoje. 1993 m. Neubergerio meno muziejuje Niujorke buvo surengta pirmoji retrospektyvinė Edwarso paroda, dokumentuojanti jo trisdešimties metų kūrybinę raidą. 2015 m. „Nasher“ skulptūros centre Dalase įvyko antroji Edwardso kūrybos retrospektyva „Penki dešimtmečiai“, kurioje pristatyti jo darbai nuo XX a. septintojo dešimtmečio iki šių dienų.
Houston-born and New York based Melvin Edwards’s Lynch Fragments series was initiated in the 1960s in response to racial violence in the United States. (1) They continue to add works to the series today. Assembled from an assortment of metal objects – pipes, padlocks, steel rebar – and welded together, Edwards’s fragments are anthropomorphic, but never figurative. More interested in symbolism than representation, the artist’s work could equally be appreciated for its expressiveness as much as its craftsmanship.
Double Gong (1989) is a wall sculpture similar in scale to a typical bronze bust. Within that modest form is a dense collision of parts. A chain link, suspended from the rectangular wall mount, impales the head of a piece of bulbous steel with an iron stake attached. On the end of the chain, a type of metal clip dangles freely but remains still. The arc marks – ribbed, foamy metal traces left by the welding arc machine – that hold it all together are rough. Untidy but not clumsy, the marks make this final assemblage look like the quiet result of an aggressive and laborious process.
Edwards learned to weld while studying at the University of Southern California in the 1960s, and blacksmithing has since been an integral part of their artistic practice. On the verso of Double Gong, Melvin has inscribed M.E., again in arc marks, giving the sculpture a sort of keloid scar that forms the artist’s initials. While these scars are eerily reminiscent to the way that African-American enslaved persons would have been branded on various parts of their bodies, by owners and traders, the marks also suggest the showmanship and workmanship of a blacksmith who takes pride in their craft. The productive possibility of this double meaning could be an entry point into seeing how Edwards’ might not be choosing to symbolise love or violence, but rather both.
Although the Lynch Fragments suggest the result of a violent interaction, Edwards’ tendency to title the works after places or events, such as Ethiopia (2002) or Festac 77 Lagos Reunion (1985), reveal an element of affection, nostalgia and care. The small metal beasts recall violence that challenges, but also serve as dedications to that which sustains and nourishes in spite of an unjust world.
1 Ursula Davila-Villa, ed. Melvin Edwards:: In Oklahoma April 13–May 20, 2017 Publication ©2017 (New York: Alexander Gray Associates, LLC, 2017)