Essay on Melvin Edwards

Document Type:Essay

Subject Area:Arts

Document 1

He began to study his field of art at the Unversity of Southern California. Edwards started his professional career once his first project was launched at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Melvin Edwards was the first African American to have his work presented in the solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum. Most of Edwards artwork deals with African American race, violence, and labor. Edwards made welded steel a medium for his sculpture. All of Edwards sculpture apart of the lynching fragment are very similar because they use the same material to convey to the reader how harsh and violent the lynching fragment was. Melvin’s materials like the lock, chains, and barbed wire represent pain and suffering. These materials are rough and very dangerous and often used to create or build an object.

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In this case, Edwards uses these materials to illustrate how hate and race tried to destroy the African American society. However, the core materials where the foundation and the heart of African Americans which could not be destroyed. There point of view many lean towards hate and darkness because perhaps the way they viewed the image, the location they viewed it from, and if they had previous knowledge on the Lynching Fragment beforehand. When viewing artwork, “Our knowledge and biases are socially constructed from a host of influence: parents, teachers, friends, and the media”. It is important when viewing the Lynching Fragment to understand that “visual understanding comes from what we previously learned”(Helmers, 10). However, another viewer may see pain and empathy in Edwards sculptures through there personal preference.

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If he or she had learned something about the Lynching Fragment or racial violence previously, then their belief after viewing the image may be unique and different from others. He wanted to express to the reader how grim the Lynching era was, and the evil it came with. Melvin Edwards wanted to make it clear that the value of his sculptures represent the authority whites had over blacks. The authority is what caused the Lynching Fragment series to launch in the first place. He wanted to incorporate fear in his sculpture to illustrate what many people were going through at that time. Many people may argue that value doesn't play a big role in defining the lynching fragment. Mention in Adichie's TedTalk, “if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding” (Adichie).

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Adichie believes that there is always more to just a single story. Melvin Edwards express through is artwork that the Lynching Fragment helps viewers understand more complex realities. I believe Melvin Edwards created complex identities through his artwork by combining tradition and history to reflect African American past experiences to express their complex stories. Melvin Edward found things we can identify as materials and through a series of manipulation; the materials lose their original form. This implied that the pieces of work African culture found its place. The confrontational period mostly with Africans across the world affected the recognition of his work. He began benefiting from the recognition of pluralism and multiculturalism that occurred in America. In conclusion, during the Lynching era it was tough to accept work, which went in contrary to the art of the time.

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