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Melvin Edwards

Installation view: Melvin Edwards, Dia Beacon, 2022

Melvin Edwards's one-person exhibition Melvin Edwards highlights site-specific sculptures of welded steel, chains, and other metal objects at Dia Beacon in Beacon, NY.

The institution's press release follows:

Dia Art Foundation presents a group of previously unrealized installations from Melvin Edwards’s dynamic body of work using barbed wire in an exhibition that opens on May 6, 2022. Conceived in 1970, the works on view at Dia Beacon highlight a period in which Edwards—best known for his sculptures of welded steel, chains, and other recognizable metal objects—experimented with various means of suspension to produce immersive site-specific sculptures. For these works, barbed wire is stretched, pulled, and hung to create large geometric volumes in space. The resulting punctuated metal lines, at times combined with chains, create spatial depth and heighten what the artist has described as the “painfully dynamic and aggressive resistance” of the material. Together, they will disrupt and manipulate the architectural frame of the galleries, dictating passageways and obstructing corners.  

While barbed wire has been a source of ongoing fascination for the artist, many of the installations from this period have until now remained as diagrammatic plans. Four works—three of which recently entered Dia’s permanent collection—have been reimagined for the present and will be on view here for the first time.  

 “I am delighted that we have been able to offer Edwards an opportunity and a platform to revisit and materialize this important group of installations more than fifty years after their conception,” said Jessica Morgan, Dia’s Nathalie de Gunzburg Director. “In today’s complex times, these works take on added resonance and ask us to consider how a given space can challenge the body or create a sense of belonging.” 

Throughout his five-decade-long career, Edwards has emphasized the "insistent presence" of his sculptural objects and installations, while also imbuing his work with political poignancy thanks to his suggestive materials and frequently poetic titles. “Edwards’s large-scale barbed wire sculptures formally explore geometry in suspension, while their material referentiality—to a social, agricultural, and militaristic history of containment and bondage—ensures these works resist resolution into pure abstraction,” said Alexis Lowry, curator.    

Melvin Edwards is curated by Alexis Lowry, curator, with Zuna Maza, curatorial assistant.