Melvin Edwards: Brighter Days Public Art Fund
Public Art Fund first showed the work of Melvin Edwards in 1991 and will present the first major survey of the African-American artist’s public works at City Hall Park, New York in 2021. Curated by Public Art Fund Curator Daniel S. Palmer, the exhibition brings together a series of large-scale sculptures created from 1970 to the present day to explore the legacy and impact of Edwards’ practice.
The exhibition explores two key recurring motifs—the chain and rocking chair—which carry deep personal symbolism and speak to African-American culture and history. Edwards uses chain links in different formal iterations: to suggest oppression, but also connection and linkage between generations and communities, and broken chains to evoke liberation or rupture. The sculptures resonate with the history of City Hall Park as both an African burial ground and as the site of the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
Public Art Fund and Melvin Edwards decided to postpone the opening of 'Melvin Edwards: Brighter Days' to May 2021 given recurring closures of City Hall Park. Initially scheduled to open in June 2020, the show was first shifted to July 2020 due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, a second postponement was announced to October, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and in response to protesters’ occupation of City Hall. In a statement released at the time, Public Art Fund said, “We remain committed to presenting the exhibition when the time is right… however, at this pivotal moment at City Hall Park, it is of paramount importance to us that the collective voices speaking out and taking action against systemic racism remain at center stage.” Brighter Days comes 30 years after Public Art Fund first worked with Edwards in 1991 to present Tomorrow’s Wind at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Central Park.