NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire V. 16.1 - Page 134

132 Edwards has been extremely busy over the last four years. He has participated in several major group and solo exhibitions in the usa and abroad that have reinforced an already substantial reputation, including, among others: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, dc (2012); Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (2012); Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York (2012); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2013); Parque de la Beneficiencia, Santiago de Cuba (2013); the Brooklyn Museum, New York (2014); Galerie Anne de Villepoix, Paris (2014) and his first solo exhibition in London at the Stephen Friedman Gallery (November 2014 – January 2015). His second retrospective, Melvin Edwards: Five Decades, has been organized by the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas (2015). It will be presented at the Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick, New Jersey, from 1 September 2015 to 3 January 2016; and at the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio (2016). Edwards has been selected for the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale (9 May – 22 November 2015), curated by Okwui Enwezor. In 2014, he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston. I park the car along a burnt sienna wall. Edwards’ house adjoins [the late] Souleymane Keita’s — a long-term solid and respectful friendship unite[d] the two artists. The security guard gives a friendly wave to indicate I can turn the engine off. He is preparing ataya, one of my favorite beverages in West Africa, made out of green tea leaves brewed with sugar and mint. A three-cup ritual that you sip all afternoon and night. “Salaam maalikum [Peace on to you],” he says and opens the gate. “Maalikum salaam [Peace returns to you too],” I answer. “Mr. Edwards is not here yet. But, please, come on in. You know your way,” he says. “Djeredjef [Thank you],” I reply going through the door. In fact, I had arrived earlier than expected, in case I got lost or delayed on my way. I enter the house, cool and like a small museum. Each room is an open space where art works are displayed. It was always Melvin and Jayne’s intention to exhibit art in the home. I take the stairs up to Edwards’ studio at the top of the house on the third floor. Several artworks he produced in Senegal for the Lynch Fragments and the Disk series hang on the white walls. Melvin Edwards is most known for his Lynch Fragments series. Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, these small-scale, welded metal wall reliefs were developed during three periods: 1963 to 1967, in response to racial violence in America; 1973 to 1974, in protest against the Vietnam War; and from 1978 to the present, where they became a vehicle to honor individuals, explore nostalgia and investigate his interest in African culture. There are now more than 200 pieces in the series. For the first time, these pieces completed in Dakar have been displayed in a solo exhibition in New York, at the Alexander Gray Associates gallery. His smaller, freestanding and hanging works are made out of a variety of objects collected in different regions: scissors, pieces of railway, knives, chains, padlocks, nails, locks, shoe maker’s hammer, trowels, interiors of motor vehicles, and agricultural or carpentry tools that are usually cut or shortened then fused together into a compact shape. In a conversation we had in New York3, Melvin Edwards clarified: You can apply the term anatomy or mask to my work. But it’s an application; it is not a reality. Because, on purpose, I don’t do masks. It’s a great creative history in doing that, but I want to do something unique in a different way. The sculptural aspect in African sculpture, the way they handle the foot, next to the leg, the circle knee, the zigzag position, that’s far more dynamic than anything going on with the head. A lot of Melvin Edwards’ public art ideas came out of these compact works that are then interpreted into their most pure and refined form. The stairs lead directly into Edwards’ studio. Large windows flood the room with natural light. The fairly large space looks like a bric-a-brac shop, but Edwards knows every piece of paper, piece of iron debris, tool on the studio floor, on his workbench or stacked on impromptu shelves. I grab a stool made out of a container and sit down. For Edwards, it is crucial to be involved with local artists and craftsmen.