Opening reception: Friday, July 5, 2019, 3–6 PM
For more than five decades, Melvin Edwards has created evocative sculptures that juxtapose disparate steel elements to reflect on varied themes—oppression, labor, violence, the African Diaspora, etc.—and pay tribute to historic figures and friends. Djeri Jef Fatou belongs to the artist's series of Discs, which he began to create in Senegal in the early 2000s. Featuring a tangled amalgamation of nails and other industrial components, the work’s reductive welded structure expands on minimalism's formalist legacy. At the same time, its title is a homage to Edwards’ close friend Fatou Ndiaye Sow (1937–2004), a Senegalese poet, teacher, and children’s book author. Furthering this connection to Senegal, Djeri Jef Fatou adapts the phrase “jërë jëf” or “thank you” from Wolof, a widely-spoken language in the country.
Ultimately, Djeri Jef Fatou reveals Edwards’ deep engagement with Africa. Since first traveling to the continent in 1970, the artist has been committed to highlighting its incredible cultural diversity. As he concludes, “In my own generation of artists, and people I encountered there, I realized Africa was going to influence me not in terms of the ‘see something, get something visual’ that will influence your work, as much as a corroboration of generations feeling a similar need to create something new and different."