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Melvin Edwards

Melvin Edwards, Song of the Broken Chains, 2020

Melvin Edwards: Brighter Days included in Juneteenth African American Read-In with writer, performer, educator and curator Porsha Olayiwola and The Willie J Laws Band at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

The institution's press release follows:

Celebrate the voices and talents of African American artists, poets, and creatives in commemoration of Juneteenth and the opening of Melvin Edwards: Brighter DaysBrighter Days, an outdoor exhibition of large-scale sculpture by modern and contemporary artist Melvin Edwards, offers a focused look into Edwards’ career in public art and elaborates on his examination of race, labor, and the African Diaspora. Throughout his practice, Edwards also collaborated with his late wife, Jayne Cortez, a well-known poet of the Black Arts Movement. To honor this interdisciplinary collaboration and Juneteenth, the African American Read-In invites visitors to experience poetry and musical performances alongside Edwards’ sculptures in the park.

deCordova is pleased to announce that the Juneteenth African American Read-In will feature Boston Poet Laureate, Porsha Olayiwola. Following her reading and music from the Willie J Laws Band, audience members are invited to bring a reading to share that celebrates the works of African American and African Diasporic writers, past and present.

About the Artists:

Melvin Edwards: A pioneer of abstract sculpture, Houston-born Melvin Edwards began his career in the 1960s after studying at the University of Southern California. Edwards gained notoriety from his first solo exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 1965, where he uniquely blurred abstraction and symbolism to comment on social justice issues – an approach distinct from his Minimalist and Post-Modernist contemporaries. At this time, he initiated his renowned, ongoing body of work Lynch Fragments, a sculpture series investigating themes of racial violence, anti-war protest, and Edwards’ connections to Africa. Shortly thereafter, he exhibited at the Studio Museum of Harlem in 1969, and by 1970, became the first African American sculptor with a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Edwards has produced over 20 public works throughout his career for universities, public housing projects, and museums. Now living and working across multiple studios in two states and Senegal, Melvin Edwards continues to be a leading voice in sculpture, exhibiting nationally and internationally.

Porsha Olayiwola: Porsha Olayiwola is a native of Chicago who writes, lives and loves in Boston. Olayiwola is a writer, performer, educator and curator who uses afro-futurism and surrealism to examine historical and current issues in the Black, woman, and queer diasporas. She is an Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and the founder of the Roxbury Poetry Festival. Olayiwola is Brown University’s 2019 Heimark Artist -In -Residence as well as the 2021 Artist-in-Residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. She is a 2020 poet laureate fellow with the Academy of American poets. Olayiwola earned her MFA in poetry from Emerson College and is the author of i shimmer sometimes, too. Olayiwola is the current poet laureate for the city of Boston. Her work can be found in or forthcoming from with TriQuarterly Magazine, Black Warrior Review, The Boston Globe, Essence Magazine, Redivider, The Academy of American Poets, Netflix, Wildness Press, The Museum of Fine Arts and elsewhere.

Willie J Laws Band: The Willie J Laws Band is one of the notable Blues acts of the region with a modern funky style that’s uniquely its own. The band’s sound includes deep Texas roots music, add some funk, and jazz influenced bass patterns, and the influence of various Afro-Caribbean drum beats, a genre-bending sound tempered with a groove from Motown, Memphis, Muscle Shoals, the Gulf Cost of Texas, and New Orleans. This isn’t strictly Blues, much of it is original music with it’s own sound and tempo. You will enter the Willie J Laws Band musical train, cover a varied terrain with its assorted musical sounds. It’s an exciting, fast moving train, and you will most definitely enjoy the ride! Come hear the “The Last Prophet of the Funky Texas Blues.”