Melvin Edwards

Mojo for 1404

Edwards Mojo For 1404 Collection Of The Artist 1500 - © Melvin Edwards/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016
  • Melvin Edwards
  • Mojo for 1404
  • 1964
  • Welded steel
  • 25.4 × 16.5 × 11.4 cm
  • Courtesy the Artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY - © Melvin Edwards/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

In this  relief sculpture from his first “Lynch Fragments” series, Melvin Edwards used twisted, “tormented” steel as an analogy for racial violence in the United States during the 1960s. In these works, he took everyday objects, such as heavy chains, gears, and other machine parts, and fused them to create bold forms resembling human body parts. Nevertheless, the objects also retain the memory of their former use, thereby multiplying the sculptures’ potential meanings. The physical language of these works— the seemingly melted metal testifying to the labor of their production—in dialogue with the evocative titles, creates what appear to be tortured bodies. Edwards thus created poetic metaphors for the historical subjugation of African American bodies. When hung at eye level, the “Lynch Fragments” address the viewer directly, prompting a comparison between the apparently violent energy required to distort steel and the brutality of racial violence.

Caroline Wallace

Biography of Melvin Edwards

  • Born 1937 in Houston, TX
Mel Edwards is best known for his sculpture series “Lynch Fragments,” based on the civil rights movement, and for his large-scale public art projects. He once commented that after he had watched steel being welded as a child, he knew he wanted to be a sculptor. After graduating from the University of Southern California in 1965, he had his first solo exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. He soon began his teaching career, which parallels his career as a sculptor. In 1967 Edwards moved to New York, where he became the first African American sculptor honored with a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, in 1970. His “Lynch Fragments” series comprises small reliefs composed of sharp-edged forms and such objects as chains, locks, and tools—all charged with meaning. The series was born out of his experience of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, but a second phase dealt with the Vietnam War and later works explore African American identity and his travels in Africa.