College of Arts and Sciences

Melvin Edwards


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Southern Sunrise - Sculpture Garden

Melvin EdwardsThe first sculpture commissioned for the Winston-Salem State University campus was Southern Sunrise, an abstract, stainless steel piece by Melvin Edwards (born 1937, Texas). The piece is composed of geometric elements, flat planes whose surfaces are brushed. This surface articulation interacts with the sunlight and enlivens each form, so that the simple shapes offer an endless array of readings.

Over a thirty year period, Edwards has worked on several bodies of work, devoting more or less time and energy to each according to personal desire and professional circumstance. Southern Sunrise is among his numerous large and medium scale geometric abstractions created for outdoor sites or large museum spaces. Since 1963, Edwards has also created a series of several hundred small wall pieces, known as the Lynch Fragments. each small sculpture merges a variety of found steel objects with the artist's sculpted steel shapes. the multiplicity of meaning and formal diversity that result are nothing short of extraordinary. Edwards insists that the Fragments be hung at eye level. This positioning leads to an animistic sensation; the work confronts the viewer more than the other way around. Certain pieces speak directly to the history of slavery and the current political and social oppression of African-Americans. Others connect more to the sculptor's affection for the metal worker's tradition-both in America and Africa-and a pure love of material, expressive abstraction and the assemblage technique.

About the Artist

MELVIN EDWARDS (b. 1937, Houston, Texas)

Melvin Edwards, is the recipient of two Fulbright Fellowships to Zimbabwe and has taught at Livingston College of Rutgers University. Born in Texas, he attended Los Angeles City College and the Los Angeles Art Institute and earned a B.F.A. degree from the University of Southern California. He lives in New York City and has a studio in Plainfield, New Jersey. His work is in such prestigious museums as the Los Angeles County Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, The Schomburg Collection in New York, as well as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. An 18-by-30 foot environmental work is at Mount Vernon Plaza in Columbus, Ohio. He has received Guggenheim and John Hay Whitney fellowships and other awards. In the Fall of 1984, he installed an exhibition at UNESCO in Paris. While in Winston-Salem, he said in an interview that he had watched steel being welded as a child and knew he wanted to be a sculptor. "Being a sculptor," he said, "is probably more what I am than what I do."

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