Melvin Edwards: Lynch Fragments
MASP, São Paulo, Brasil
August 24 - November 15, 2018
The institution's press release follows:
Lynch Fragments brings together a significant selection of works from the homonymous series by the American sculptor Melvin Edwards, created between 1963 and 2016, comprising more than fifty years of what is considered the artist’s central body of work.
Edwards started to produce the Fragments series when he lived in Los Angeles, at a crucial time of the civil rights movement in the United States. The works directly reference the heinous practice of lynching after the abolition of slavery in that country. Denouncing the violence against African Americans, Edwards created his sculptures as forms between bodies and machines that can also be interpreted as weapons, given the sense of violence and danger suggested by their blunt, angular, and protruding shapes. By putting together utilitarian metal objects with others without any defined function, these works offer a unique synthesis between abstraction and political engagement, far from the alienation of orthodox abstract art and the dogmatic limits of social realism.
From the 1970s on, Edwards bult ties with Africa through trips and by spending more time on the continent. In his titles, he evokes African languages, places, and histories, as well as the African diaspora, often with a nostalgic or memorial sense. In 2000, he established a studio in Dakar, Senegal, where he spends part of his time and where he produces works that reflect the cultural reality of his surrounding environment. The selection of works of this exhibition reflects the multiplicity of thematic interests and also the different variations of the works, such as in Discs, in which the compositions occupy the center of metal circles and invert the relation of figure and background, and Grids, in which they are framed by a geometric mesh.
The exhibition runs parallel to the exhibition Histórias afro-atlânticas [Afro-Atlantic histories], co-organized with Instituto Tomie Ohtake, which examines the ebbs and flows between Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, and Europe. The 38 Fragments in the exhibition constitute a succession of emblems that punctuate historical moments with the artist’s personal references. From Palmares (1988), closer to us, referring to the best known of the Brazilian quilombos, an artwork created in the year of the centenary of the abolition of mercantile slavery in Brazil; to Homage to Amílcar Cabral (2016), paying homage to the Marxist theorist and a leader in the struggle against colonialism in Africa; and Siempre Gilberto de la Nuez (1994), recalling the extraordinary yet little-known self-taught Cuban painter, who has two works included in the Histórias afro-atlânticas exhibition and was a close friend of Edwards’.
The references to the multiple and diverse Afro-Atlantic histories continue: to the people of the ancient Benin empire, the place of origin for most enslaved
Africans who were brought to Brazil; to Ogun, the orisha of war and metalwork, with direct relationship with the artist’s metal sculpture. The publication of a catalog is a fundamental component of this project, expanding the scope of the exhibition with images of several works, constituting the most important record of the Lynch Fragments series to date.
Melvin Edwards: Lynch Fragments was curated by Rodrigo Moura, Adjunct-curator of Brazilian art at MASP.