Edwards is recognised as a pioneer in the history of contemporary African-American art and sculpture. He is perhaps best known for his sculptural series Lynch Fragments, which spans three periods: the early 1960s, when he responded to racial violence in American history; the early 1970s, when his activism concerning the Vietnam War motivated him to return to the series; and from 1978 to the present, when he began using Lynch Fragments as a vehicle to honour individuals, to explore nostalgia, and to investigate his personal interest in African culture. This series exemplifies the extraordinary range of expression Edwards achieves with his method of welding industrial found-objects-including hammers, chains and rail road spikes-into new forms, provoking thoughts of violence, humour and hope.
Edward's art career began in southern California with a solo exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 1965. He moved to New York in 1967, where shortly after his arrival, his work was exhibited at the then newly created Studio Museum, and in 1970 became the first African-American sculptor to have works presented in a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum. In 1993 the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, NY, organised the first retrospective in Edwards' career documenting his thirty-year artistic development.
Most recently the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas hosted Edwards' second retrospective, featuring work from the early 1960s to the present, which closed in May 2015. It will travel to Zimmerli Museum of Art, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA and Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio, USA.
Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Melvin Edwards: Five Decades', Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas; travelling to Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey; and Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio, USA (2015-2016); ‘Melvin Edwards', Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, UK (2014-2015); ‘Melvin Edwards', Alexander Gray Associates, New York, USA (2014); Melvin Edwards, Galerie Anne de Villepoix, Paris, France (2014); ‘Melvin Edwards', Hunterdon Museum of Art, Clinton, New Jersey, USA (2001); ‘Melvin Edwards: Lynch Fragments', Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, Michigan, USA (1998); ‘Melvin Edwards Sculpture: A Thirty-Year Retrospective 1963-1993', McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas, USA (1995); ‘The Sculpture of Melvin Edwards', UNESCO, Paris, France (1984); ‘Melvin Edwards', The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, USA (1979); ‘Melvin Edwards', Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA (1970); ‘Melvin Edwards', Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA (1968); ‘Melvin Edwards', Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California, USA (1965).
Recent notable group exhibitions include ‘All the World's Futures', La Biennale de Venezia, Italy (2015); ‘Not New Now', Marrakech Biennale, Marrakech, Morocco; ‘Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions', Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, UK (2015); ‘Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties', Brooklyn Museum, New York; travelling to Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas, USA (2014-15); ‘Beyond the Spectrum: Abstraction in African American Art, 1950-1975', Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, USA (2014); ‘African American Art Since 1950: Perspectives from the David C. Driskell Center', Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA (2013); ‘Blues for Smoke', Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA (2013); ‘Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960-1980', MoMA PS1, New York, USA (2012); ‘Paper Trails: Selected Works from the Collection, 1934-2001', The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA (2011).
Edward's works are featured in many prominent collections internationally including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York.