Melvin Edwards’ “Agricole” (2016), currently on view at Alexander Gray Associates, is a large segment of a plow head suspended from the ceiling by three taught chains. The title translates to “Agricultural” in French, and reflects Edwards’ engagement with the French-speaking African diaspora. He has maintained a studio in Dakar, Senegal since 2000, and notes that the development of his land there was “literally an ‘agricole’ project. It was there where [he] started hearing the word so much that it felt familiar.” He has gone on to consider art a product of agriculture, thus his use of agricultural tools. Edwards also recalls memories of Texas, where the generation of his parents, teachers, and role models—the storytellers of his youth—transitioned from rural to urban living. Through his use of recognizable metal elements, he invites multiple associations; metal sourced in local scrap yards evokes industrial history, and agricultural tools recall rural life and sustenance. While the landscapes and socio-political dynamics in both Texas and Oklahoma have changed radically since his youth, the contrast of farming and industry remained consistent, and the tools of agriculture are where these multiple histories reside.
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