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Melvin Edwards

Installations

1969—Present

Curtain Calls, 2019

Curtain Calls, 2019
Barbed wire and chain
Dimensions variable
 

Agricole, 2016 Welded steel and chains

Agricole, 2016
Welded steel and chains
Dimensions variable
 

Homage to Oba Ewuare II of Benin City, Nigeria, 2016–2017

Homage to Oba Ewuare II of Benin City, Nigeria, 2016–2017
Welded steel in 3 parts
Dimensions variable
 

Homage to the Poet Leon Gontran Damas, 1978–1981

Homage to the Poet Leon Gontran Damas, 1978–1981
Steel in 5 parts

Description

Installations

1969—Present

Often created from barbed wire and chain—at once delicate and dangerous—Melvin Edwards’ installations invite viewers to construct complex narratives around interrelated themes, including agriculture, incarceration, and racism. Well aware of the evocative nature of his chosen materials, the artist capitalizes on the destabilizing disjunction between the reductive formalism of these works and their components’ real-world applications. “Using barbed wire, you have to be aware that it was a way to keep the cows at home. But then people turned it into concentration camps,” Edwards explains in a 2013 interview with the curator Catherine Craft. “Before it happened with Jewish people in World War II, it happened in Namibia. Those contradictions, or contradistinctions are things that have occupied me in visual art. As a way to realize the dynamic in a situation, art or otherwise, they’re very important to me.” At the same time, interested in the intersection between drawing and sculpture, Edwards has termed his barbed wire installations “drawings in space.” At once linear and three-dimensional, barbed wire allows him to play with spatial relationships in innovative and unexpected ways.