Radical Acts

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Melvin Edwards. 4 works from the Lynch Fragments series. 1986 475

Melvin Edwards. Lynch Fragment series. © Melvin Edwards/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Artist, Melvin Edwards: My name is Melvin Edwards. These pieces are from the Lynch Fragment series. The world that I came from was American racism, segregation. I may have been young but I paid attention.

The Lynch Fragments title, I felt that if I was going to label the works collectively, I wanted to be sure that it was taken seriously, and the most serious thing I could think of was lynching. This was a way of keeping us in line, and my work had to be as strong in opposition as all of that.

The work has nothing that is literal. It tends to be more the direction of poetry. There are some elements like chains, people love to jump to slavery and oppression—that can be, but nobody remembers why chains were invented. Well, I'm a sculptor who works in steel. I'm a blacksmith. I know that that's the human invention of a stronger kind of rope. Everything else is implication. You can use a chain to anchor a ship, you know, or bind somebody.

Sometimes something that's pointed appears to be a knife, but wasn't at all. I buy straight scrap steel or new steel all the time. It's like creating music. The same sound one time it's a beautiful high point of an aria, another time it’s just a screaming son of a bitch down the street, you know (laughs). So, in visual art we have the same kind of thing. You’re making sculpture with chain or with barbed wire that will remind my human compatriots in the world that we got lots of work to do.