Melvin Edwards

Melvin Edwards was born in 1937 in Houston, USA, and lives and works just outside New York, USA and Dakar, Senegal.

Edwards is recognised as a pioneer in contemporary African-American art and sculpture. He is best known for his sculptural series ‘Lynch Fragments’ that spans three periods: the 1960s, when he responded to racial violence; the early 1970s, when the Vietnam War motivated him to return to the series; and from 1978 to the present he began using ‘Lynch Fragments’ as a vehicle to honour individuals, explore nostalgia, and to investigate African culture. This series exemplifies the extraordinary range of expression Edwards achieves by welding together industrial found-objects; including hammers, chains and rail road spikes—into new forms, provoking subjects such as 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. Shortly after his arrival, his work was exhibited at the 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.

In 2015 the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas hosted Edwards’ second retrospective, featuring work from the early 1960s to the present titled ‘Five Decades’. This toured to Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey; and Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio, USA.

Notable solo exhibitions include: ‘Melvin Edwards’, Alexander Gray Associates, New York, USA (2019); ‘Melvin Edwards: Crossroads’, Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland, USA (2019); ‘Melvin Edwards’, aurora, São Paulo, Brazil (2019); ‘Melvin Edwards: Lynch Fragments’, MASP, São Paulo, Brazil (2018); ‘Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals and New Life’, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University, Rhode Island, USA (2017-2018); ‘Melvin Edwards’, Galerie Buchholz, Berlin, Germany (2017); ‘Melvin Edwards: In Oklahoma’, Alexander Gray Associates, New York, USA (2017); ‘Melvin Edwards’, Oklahoma Contemporary, Oklahoma City, USA (2016); ‘Melvin Edwards: Haptic’, Alexander Gray Associates, New York, USA (2016); ‘Melvin Edwards: Five Decades’, Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas; which travelled 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).

Notable group exhibitions include: 'Walking Through Walls', Gropius Bau, Berlin, Germany (2019–2020); ‘Where the Oceans Meet’, Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College, Miami, Florida, USA (2019); ‘Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem’, Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, California, USA (2019); ‘Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power’, Tate Modern, London, UK; travelling to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, USA; Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA; and The Broad, Los Angeles, California, USA (2017-2019); ‘An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection 1940-2017’, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA (2017-2018); ‘20/20’, The Studio Museum Harlem and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, USA (2017); ‘Space Force Construction’, V-A-C Foundation with the Art Institute of Chicago, Palazzo delle Zattere, Venice, Italy (2017) ‘Not New Now’, Marrakech Biennale, Morocco (2016); ‘Postwar: Art between the Pacific and the Atlantic 1945 – 1965’, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2016); ‘All the World’s Futures’, La Biennale de Venezia, Italy (2015); ‘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 Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York.