Edwards is known for his creation of powerful abstract sculptures from common materials, including scrap iron and barbed wire. This exhibition presents an unprecedented opportunity: More than half of the works were created just for Oklahoma Contemporary from materials he gathered locally. These new pieces are displayed together with a group of works that he produced over the past 20 years.
Over the past 50 years, Edwards’ work has been complex and multilayered. His welded sculptures are abstract, though his materials and the titles move the works into the realm of the narrative. Originally from Houston, Edwards emerged onto the art scene in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. He became well known for his Lynch Fragments series, begun in 1963 and continuing through today, in which objects such as chains, tools and steel scraps are welded into compact, evocative forms. In 1970, he became the first African American sculptor to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. That exhibition showed, like Lynch Fragments, his interest in working within and against the boundaries of abstraction and minimalism, using materials with immense cultural and personal resonance, particularly in the context of the African-American experience.
Edwards has had a long and successful career, with works in major collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Chicago Art Institute; and the Dallas Museum of Art. After a recent touring retrospective by the Nasher Museum in Dallas, he has been propelled back into the limelight. We are delighted to host an exhibition by such an important, internationally renowned artist.
In conjunction with the Melvin Edwards exhibition, Oklahoma Contemporary is organizing a special series of events that will take place in the galleries, in dialog with his artwork. Highlighting Edwards’ longstanding interest in jazz music, jazz performances are scheduled throughout the exhibition, including at the opening on Oct. 20. Freedom Visible, a Nov. 3 event held with the Ralph Ellison Foundation, will include music, dance and poetry — Edwards’ late wife Jayne Cortez was a celebrated poet. More details here.
The exhibition is presented by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. Sponsors include Rand and Jeanette Elliott, James A. Pickel, 21c Museum Hotels and David L. Phelps.
In conjunction with the Melvin Edwards exhibition, Oklahoma Contemporary is organizing a special series of events that will take place in the galleries, in dialog with his artwork. Highlighting Edwards’ longstanding interest in jazz music, jazz performances are scheduled throughout the exhibition, including at the opening on Oct. 20. A special evening is planned in conjunction with the Ralph Ellison Foundation on Nov. 3 that will include music and dance, as well as poetry readings — Edwards’ late wife Jayne Cortez was a celebrated poet, and both Melvin and Jayne were important figures in the Black Arts Movement.