Conceived in 1970, Large-Scale Barbed Wire Installations by Melvin Edwards to be Realized for the First Time at Dia Beacon This Spring
April 12, 2022, Beacon, NY – Dia Art Foundation presents a group of previously unrealized installations from Melvin Edwards’s dynamic body of work using barbed wire in an exhibition that opens on May 6, 2022. Conceived in 1970, the works on view at Dia Beacon highlight a period in which Edwards—best known for his sculptures of welded steel, chains, and other recognizable metal objects—experimented with various means of suspension to produce immersive site-specific sculptures. For these works, barbed wire is stretched, pulled, and hung to create large geometric volumes in space. The resulting punctuated metal lines, at times combined with chains, create spatial depth and heighten what the artist has described as the “painfully dynamic and aggressive resistance” of the material. Together, they will disrupt and manipulate the architectural frame of the galleries, dictating passageways and obstructing corners.
While barbed wire has been a source of ongoing fascination for the artist, many of the installations from this period have until now remained as diagrammatic plans. Four works—three of which recently entered Dia’s permanent collection—have been reimagined for the present and will be on view here for the first time.
“I am delighted that we have been able to offer Edwards an opportunity and a platform to revisit and materialize this important group of installations more than fifty years after their conception,” said Jessica Morgan, Dia’s Nathalie de Gunzburg Director. “In today’s complex times, these works take on added resonance and ask us to consider how a given space can challenge the body or create a sense of belonging.”
Throughout his five-decade-long career, Edwards has emphasized the "insistent presence" of his sculptural objects and installations, while also imbuing his work with political poignancy thanks to his suggestive materials and frequently poetic titles. “Edwards’s large-scale barbed wire sculptures formally explore geometry in suspension, while their material referentiality—to a social, agricultural, and militaristic history of containment and bondage—ensures these works resist resolution into pure abstraction,” said Alexis Lowry, curator.
Melvin Edwards is curated by Alexis Lowry, curator, with Zuna Maza, curatorial assistant.
About Melvin Edwards
Melvin Edwards was born in Houston in 1937. He moved to Los Angeles in 1955, where he attended the University of Southern California. Throughout his career, Edwards has used resonant materials and poetic titles to lend formal sculptures political character. In 1960 he learned to weld and began assembling knives, chains, and other recognizable metal objects into geometric shapes and abstract configurations. In 1967 Edwards moved to New York. Around this time the artist also began working on several major public commissions. His work scaled up as he tested the boundaries of geometry and used various methods of suspension and materials like barbed wire and chain. Edwards’s work has been the subject of numerous retrospectives and solo presentations including those at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas; Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. From 1972 to 2002, Edwards taught at Rutgers University in Newark. In 2014, he received an honorary doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston.
Dia Art Foundation
Taking its name from the Greek word meaning “through,” Dia was established in 1974 with the mission to serve as a conduit for artists to realize ambitious new projects, unmediated by overt interpretation and uncurbed by the limitations of more traditional museums and galleries. Dia’s programming fosters contemplative and sustained consideration of a single artist’s body of work and its collection is distinguished by the deep and longstanding relationships that the nonprofit has cultivated with artists whose work came to prominence particularly in the 1960s and 1970s.
In addition to Dia Beacon, Dia Bridgehampton, and Dia Chelsea, Dia maintains and operates a constellation of commissions, long-term installations, and site-specific projects, notably focused on Land art, nationally and internationally. These include:
- Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979), Max Neuhaus’s Times Square (1977), and Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks, inaugurated in 1982 and ongoing), all of which are located in New York City
- De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977) in western New Mexico
- Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) in the Great Salt Lake, Utah
- Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1973–76) in the Great Basin Desert, Utah
- De Maria’s The Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977) in Kassel, Germany
For additional information or materials, contact:
Hannah Gompertz, Dia Art Foundation, email@example.com, +1 212 293 5598
Melissa Parsoff, Parsoff Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 516 445 5899 (US press inquiries)
Sam Talbot, email@example.com, +44 (0) 772 5184 630 (international press inquiries)