Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life

David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University

November 11, 2017 - February 11, 2018

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017) 

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

"Look through minds mirror distance and measure time" – Jayne Cortez, 1970/, barbed wire, dimensions variable
 

"Look through minds mirror distance and measure time" – Jayne Cortez, detail, 1970/, barbed wire, dimensions variable
 

"Look through minds mirror distance and measure time" – Jayne Cortez, detail, 1970/, barbed wire, dimensions variable

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Page of History, 2016, Pigmented cotton on pigmented abaca 60h x 40w in (152.40h x 101.60w cm)
 

Untitled (For the brave young students in Soweto), 1984, Ink on paper 30h x 22.25w in (76.20h x 56.52w cm)
 

Stockpiling Song, 1978, welded steel, 23h x 13w x 8d in (58.42h x 33.02w x 20.32d cm)
 

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017) 

Agricole, detail, 2016, welded steel and chains, dimensions variable
 

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017) 

Agricole, detail, 2016, welded steel and chains, dimensions variable

Agricole, detail, 2016, welded steel and chains, dimensions variable

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017)

Steel Life (After Winter), 2017, welded steel, 14h x 12w x 6.50d in (35.56h x 30.48w x 16.51d cm)
 

Steel Life (After Winter), 2017, welded steel, 14h x 12w x 6.50d in (35.56h x 30.48w x 16.51d cm)

Steel Life (After Winter), 2017, welded steel, 14h x 12w x 6.50d in (35.56h x 30.48w x 16.51d cm)

Scales of Injustice, 2017/, barbed wire, chain, and steel, dimensions variable
 

Scales of Injustice, 2017/, barbed wire, chain, and steel, dimensions variable

Scales of Injustice, detail, 2017/, barbed wire, chain, and steel, dimensions variable

Scales of Injustice, detail, 2017/, barbed wire, chain, and steel, dimensions variable

Scales of Injustice, detail, 2017/, barbed wire, chain, and steel, dimensions variable

Two is One, 2016, welded steel and chain, dimensions variable
 

Two is One, detail, 2016, welded steel and chain, dimensions variable
 

Two is One, detail, 2016, welded steel and chain, dimensions variable

Two is One, detail, 2016, welded steel and chain, dimensions variable

Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life, installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University (2017) 

Press Release

Festivals, Funerals, and New Life
David Winton Bell Gallery, Boston University
Providence, RI 


Press Release

Festivals, Funerals, and New Life includes sculptures, prints, and installations created over four decades. Recent works are consistent with the formal language of Edwards’s iconic and ongoing Lynch Fragments series begun in 1963, speaking to his career-long commitment to themes of African diaspora and Black nationalism. Hung at the artist’s head-height, the welded steel sculpture Homage to Amílcar Cabral (2016) is titled in honor of Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral, the successful leader of the Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau nationalist movement for independence, who was assassinated in 1973.

Historic and rarely exhibited works — such as Fed (1973), a Lynch Fragment-like form suspended from a steel base — testify to Edwards’s commitment to exploring industrial material and exploited labor. New works, such as Steel Life (After Winter) (2017), continue this commitment — welding steel tools to chains and industrial metals — while also turning inward. Exploring the genre of modern still-life, the work is a play on words as well as materials. The steel tools included are from his own art-making practice. In the artist’s words, “my interest in all of those configurations are ultimately personal references rather than what people have labeled as movements. Steel Life is my life.”

Recent works convey feelings of tension and suspense as historical symbols reverberate. In the handmade paper work Page of History (2016), a tangle of metal hangs by a chain suspended from an abstract, angular form, surrounded by darkness and a rust-red aura. The tension is sustained in the installation of Agricole (2017) — an abstract, welded steel form resembling a cattle catcher suspended from long chains converging at the center of the gallery.

The exhibition title is an elaboration on the title of the book Festivals and Funerals by poet and activist Jayne Cortez, Edwards’s late wife. Cortez, who passed in 2012, was a central figure of the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s and 70s. Included in the exhibition, Cortez’s book is accompanied by “Look through minds mirror distance measure time” – Jayne Cortez (1970) a dramatic, hanging barbed-wire installation by Edwards, named after a line of poetry by Cortez. Collaborative works completed by Edwards and Cortez are also included, such as Untitled (For the brave young students in Soweto) (1984) — an abstract monoprint by Edwards overwritten with poetry by Cortez.

One of Cortez’s last public appearances was at Brown University where she participated in the 2011 Chinua Achebe Colloquium on Africa. A respected and influential artist, Cortez inspired and propelled Edwards’s work, with the couple enjoying an intimate creative and collaborative relationship throughout their life together. Bringing works to Brown for this exhibition, Edwards commemorates Cortez’s presence within and throughout his artwork as well as her vital contributions to art’s engagement with social justice. The exhibition and Edwards’s and Cortez’s partnership remind us that while we may stand up and be counted as individuals, our struggles and the outcomes of our creative work are not ours alone. They are shared.