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Dieu Donné is a leading non-profit cultural institution dedicated to serving established and emerging artists through the collaborative creation of contemporary art using the process of hand papermaking.

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Melvin Edwards

Melvin Edwards
Works in Handmade Paper

March 3 – April 25, 2015

Dieu Donné is pleased to present an exhibition of works in handmade paper by renown American sculptor Melvin Edwards. The artworks on view were predominantly created in 2000 during the artist’s residency as the inaugural Lab Grant Program artist. Edwards has regularly returned to work in the Dieu Donné studio, continuing to create works in handmade paper as part of his practice. This exhibition marks the 14th anniversary of his last solo exhibition at Dieu Donné, Agua y Acero en Papel (Water and Steel in Paper) for which there is a publication available as a PDF on request. 

Edwards has traveled extensively and often throughout Africa, and the continent has been a rich source of inspiration in his work. Just prior to his Lab Grant residency, Edwards had been in Angola and he has said that the references in this work are directly linked to the country, especially the importance of water and the significance of tools: “…when anthropologists want to see early traces of humanity, they look for something that indicates tools… If it has no indication of tools, there’s no way to know we were there.” Often found in his sculptural works, chains, steel plates, locks, and other objects were central to the artist’s process in the Dieu Donné studio, manipulating pulp around the items placed directly onto the papermaking screens. The meaning of the objects, whose shadows are the traces of humanity, is reflected in the process of creating the artwork. 

The artist has stated that these works are where “sculpture and graphics come together”, using physical objects and working with a tactile medium to create two-dimensional works. In the studio, Melvin Edwards collaborated with former Studio Director Pat Almonrode to explore the “blow-out” technique. To create the forms, a sheet of black paper was pulled on a screen, and then Edwards placed objects on the screen. Water was then sprayed onto the screen, creating negative space by washing the exposed pulp away. The physical items were then removed from the screen revealing the image, which was then couched (or pressed) onto a base sheet of paper. Edwards credits his ability to think in terms of space and form in this medium with his background in sculpture, which has also had significant influence on his painting and printmaking practices. 

Melvin Edwards is represented by Alexander Gray Associates, New York, and is the subject of a major retrospective Melvin Edwards: Five Decades organized by the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas. Primarily known for his sculptural works, Edwards has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions. His work on paper, created at Dieu Donné during his Lab Grant residency, have been collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.