Collection 1940s–1970s

Melvin Edwards. The Lifted X. 1965 435

Steel, 65 x 45 x 22" (165.1 x 114.3 x 55.9 cm). Committee on Painting and Sculpture Funds. © Melvin Edwards/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Artist, Melvin Edwards: I'm Melvin Edwards. Born in 1937 in Houston, Texas. I'm a sculptor who works in steel. I'm a blacksmith.

Most of my education was focused on painting, but I saw someone welding and got him to teach me to weld. While experimenting with sculpture, I seemed to develop something that made intuitive sense of what I was trying to do. Steel—you can do a lot with it. It's practical material.

We live in a society that has an irrational, very negative divisiveness based on race. The Lifted X, I was actually working on on February 21st, 1965, when I got the news that Malcolm X was killed. And he was a person whose political ideas I felt some empathy for. No, he was not Martin Luther King, who said everything should happen peacefully. He said, if we're aggressed, we should return the favor. And so I eventually evolved the title out of respect for his efforts.

The work has nothing that is literal because I don't really work that way. The section that contains the meat hook—for four years in high school, I worked in the meat department of a store. The more geometric structure, the X in this piece, that's all geometry developed with angle iron and small I-beam steel, in other words, the same stuff somebody who's constructing a building would use.

I'm a socially expressive artist. And what that means is, not necessarily social protest, but expressive in all kinds of cultural ways. And all of that goes into the work.

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