Melvin Edwards

Alexander Gray Associates

In early September, an op-ed feature in the New York Times described 9/11 as the moment that “saw the innocence of a nation crumble to the ground.” Melvin Edwards’s sculptures seem to rejoin the flawed irony of that account in mute form, to issue it a retort at once silent and searing. That the sculpture Iraq, 2003, marks but one chapter in the inexorable procession of Edwards’s “Lynch Fragments”—a series of small welded works begun in 1963, now comprising more than two hundred pieces (nine of which were on display here)—gives the lie to a myth of innocence crumbling suddenly. The intermittent progression of Edwards’s gnarled steel sculptures over the past five decades—responding to civil rights abuses, to Vietnam-era injustices, or to the government-sanctioned exportation of racialized violence to detention centers abroad—figures its own postwar history.

Iraq perches on the wall with the

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