Melvin Edwards The Lifted X 1965

  • Not on view

Edwards made The Lifted X in 1965, the year of the assassination of Malcolm X, the establishment of the Black Arts Movement, and the Watts Rebellion—six days of civic uprising in a predominantly black neighborhood of Los Angeles, the city where Edwards lived and worked. Titled upon completion in remembrance of the slain civil rights activist, the imposing sculpture, made from gnarled, welded steel balanced within and atop a rectangular steel armature, seems to have been born from the turbulence of its time.

Edwards learned to weld in 1960, and in 1963 he began his ongoing Lynch Fragments series of small wall reliefs. Between two and three Lynch Fragments form the central body of The Lifted X. Unified in medium, the metal elements are not obviously parts of earlier works or other objects; in this way, Edwards’s sculptures sidestep the category of assemblage, though not entirely its technique. Completely abstract except for the unmistakable meat hook hanging in clear view, the sculpture evokes an instrument of torture. “When important persons die, they rise,” Edwards has said. According to the artist, in death Malcolm X became a martyr: assassination only expanded the significance of his words and actions. In this context, rather than a symbol of mourning or a torture device, The Lifted X is a triumphant object of defiance.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
65 x 45 x 22" (165.1 x 114.3 x 55.9 cm)
Committee on Painting and Sculpture Funds
Object number
© Melvin Edwards/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Painting and Sculpture

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].