Africa is with me every day. It’s part of my universe, along with everything else that’s part of my universe. The problem with most discussions of modernism is that they aren’t personal enough.
– Melvin Edwards, 2019
NEW ORLEANS, LA (January 24, 2020)—The Ogden Museum of Southern Art will present Melvin Edwards: Crossroads, an exhibition that explores the cross-cultural connections in the artist’s work from 1977 to the present. On view February 8 through July 5, 2020, this exhibition of 22 sculptures and installations focuses on the ways in which Edward’s dynamic welded steel works have been equally influenced by his singular vision of abstraction and by his personal experiences—from growing up during the civil rights era in the U.S. to engaging with a variety of African cultures.
Edwards (American, b. 1937) was profoundly energized by his experience at a major arts festival in Lagos in 1977, and since then, his work has increasingly connected to African art, languages, poetry, liberation politics and philosophy. He has made reciprocal ties to many African countries, such as Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Senegal, where he has maintained a home for nearly 20 years. The exhibition features 18 of the artist’s Lynch Fragments, a group of sculptures comprised of raw metal; familiar objects such as knives, hooks and machine parts; and tools from Africa and the United States. While the artist began the Lynch Fragments series in 1963, many of the titles from the 1980s to the present come from African dialects and carry the connotation of return, recapitulation and exchange. These works are accompanied by two large-scale sculptures, including the room-size installation, Agricole (2016) to tell the story of Edwards’ travels, the people he engaged and the larger social history of the period.
“We are absolutely thrilled to present this critically important exhibition of Melvin’s work in New Orleans,” says Christopher Wayner, Deputy Director of Ogden Museum. “As an artist raised in the South and informed by a multiplicity of influences and experiences, Melvin’s work resonates with the complex, difficult and dynamic beauty that informs our identity. To show this work here, and at this moment, realizes an opportunity to demonstrate the profound impact that abstract art manifests in its ability to engage and inspire us.”
This is second time Edward’s work has been exhibited at Ogden Museum, with his first appearance occurring in the 2017-2018 exhibition, Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, presented by The Helis Foundation and co-organized by the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and The Baltimore Museum of Art.
On view concurrently is the exhibition, What Music is Within: Black Abstraction from the Permanent Collection. Like Melvin Edwards, the artists in What Music is Within use abstraction as a powerful modality of expression. This exhibition includes African American artists who share elements of identity, yet maintain strong individual voices: Ron Bechet, Kevin Cole, Jeffrey Cook, Minnie Evans, Sam Gilliam, Moses Hogan, Horton Humble, Robert Reed, John Scott, Merton Simpson, Martin Peyton, Eugene Martin, Clifton Web and Arlington Weithers.
Melvin Edwards: Crossroads is organized by The Baltimore Museum of Art and co-curated by Katy Siegel, BMA Senior Programming and Research Curator and Thaw Endowed Chair in Modern American Art at Stony Brook University, and Christopher Bedford, BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director.
Following the exhibition’s closes at Ogden Museum, Melvin Edwards: Crossroads will be presented at the Fisher Museum of Art at the University of Southern California.
Melvin Edwards: Crossroads at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art is made possible through the generous support of presenting sponsor, The Helis Foundation.
Melvin Edwards (b.1937) is a pioneering African American artist who divides his time between New York, Baltimore, and Senegal. Born in Houston, Texas, he began his artistic career at the University of Southern California, where he met and was mentored by Hungarian painter Francis de Erdely. In 1965 the Santa Barbara Museum of Art organized Edwards’ first solo exhibition, which launched his professional career. He moved to New York City in 1967, and his work was soon exhibited at the Studio Museum. In 1970, Edwards became the first African-American sculptor to have works presented in a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Other major solo exhibitions include Melvin Edwards Sculpture: A Thirty-Year Retrospective 1963–1993 at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, NY (1993); Melvin Edwards: Five Decades at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, TX (2015), Zimmerli Museum of Art, Rutgers University, NJ; Columbus Museum of Art, OH; Melvin Edwards: Festivals, Funerals, and New Life at Brown University in Providence, RI (2017); and Melvin Edwards: Lynch Fragments at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo in Brazil (2018). The artist’s work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions, including Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection (2017-2019); Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic 1945-1965, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2016); All the World’s Futures, 56th Venice Biennale, Italy (2015); Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties, Brooklyn Museum, NY (2014); Blues for Smoke, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2012-2013); and African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC (2012).
Edwards’ public art projects include Homage to My Father and the Spirit (1969) at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; Holder of the Light (1985) at Lafayette Gardens, Jersey City, NJ; and Asafokra (1990) at the Utsukushi-Ga-Hara Open-Air Museum, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. His work is also represented in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York; as well as at The Baltimore Museum of Art, MD; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), CA; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Albright– Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), Philadelphia, PA; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; among others. Edwards taught at Rutgers University from 1972 to 2002. In 2014, he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston.
OGDEN MUSEUM OF SOUTHERN ART
Located in the vibrant Warehouse Arts District of downtown New Orleans, Louisiana since 1999, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art welcomes 85,000 visitors annually to experience and learn about the artists and art movements of the American South. It is home to a collection of more than four thousand works, making it the largest and most comprehensive repository dedicated to Southern art in the nation, with particular strength in the genres of Self-Taught art, Regionalism, photography and contemporary art. The Museum is further recognized for its original exhibitions, public events and educational programs, which examine the development of visual art alongside Southern traditions of music, literature and local craft. Among its recent exhibitions are Memory is a Strange Bell: The Art of William Christenberry (2019-2020) Piercing the Inner Wall: The Art of Dusti Bongé (2019), New Southern Photography (2018-2019), The Whole Drum Will Sound: Women in Southern Abstraction (2018), and Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, presented by The Helis Foundation (2017-2018).
The Ogden Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. with extended hours on Thursdays from 6 – 8 p.m. for Ogden After Hours. Admission is free to Museum Members and $13.50 for adults, $11 for seniors 65 and older, $6.75 for children ages 5-17 and free for children under 5.
The Museum is located at 925 Camp Street, New Orleans Louisiana 70130. For more information visit ogdenmuseum.org or call 504.539.9650.