Melvin Edwards‘ career began in 1965 with a solo exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Over the next five years three more museum exhibitions followed, including his groundbreaking presentation at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the first ever by an African-American sculptor. Since 1970, Edwards’ work has been widely exhibited, establishing him as an iconic figure who inspired a younger generation of African-American artists.
In all its forms, Edwards’ work engages with the history of race and civil rights and social and political turmoil. Taking inspiration from Africa where he spends several months each year working in Senegal, Edwards’ sculptures address his personal history with beguiling openness and universalism and celebrate inclusion and diversity.
The exhibition features a dramatic large-scale sculptural installation made from barbed wire and conceived in the 1960s. Realised here for the first time, its many strands cascade from the ceiling and create a single plane anchored to the wall in a circular configuration. Sharing an affinity with other conceptual minimalist installations of the 1960s, Edwards’ choice of barbed wire as material imbues this sculpture with social and political meaning.
Edwards’ work contains a multitude of contradictions. Seemingly arbitrary forms are meticulous compositions; distinctly evocative, sensitive and forceful. By summoning a range of artistic, cultural and historical references, his art resonates even more today. In January 2015 the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas will host his next major retrospective.
Stephen Friedman Gallery
25-28 Old Burlington Street