Art in Tribeca: Melvin Edwards at City Hall Park

The Public Art Fund has installed a series of monumental sculptures by Melvin Edwards, whose abstract steel pieces often reference African-American history and explore the themes of slavery. The show is titled “Brighter Days” and will be up through November. It is a brilliant addition to the park and cultural landscape.

There are a total of six sculptures in the park (I didn’t shoot all of them because it’s fun to be surprised as you walk through the park), four created between 1970 and 1996 (Edwards is 84) and one new work commissioned last year as part of this exhibit. Each of them incorporates some sort of chain — “a form that Edwards has long engaged with and that may suggest oppression but also liberation and connection,” as the Public Art Fund explains.

Photo by Ross Collab

Over his six decades of work as an artist, Edwards has had solo exhibitions at the Whitney, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton and has produced more than 20 public works, including four in the city. “Tomorrow’s Wind,” a 1991 work commissioned by the Public Art Fund for Central Park is now on view at Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem. He was born in Houston but now lives between Jersey and upstate.

And this from the curator’s introduction to the show: “This signature motif for the artist takes on numerous meanings. Chains have functional use as “welded rope” to pull or hoist, but their interconnected links also convey metaphorical significance. They can represent bonds that constrain or unite us, while broken fragments might suggest liberation or loss. The context of City Hall Park adds resonance to the historical associations of these metal forms as tools of slavery and violence. This is the site of the African Burial Ground, a colonial-era cemetery for enslaved and freed individuals of African descent. More recently it became a geographic center of Black Lives Matter protests with the occupation of City Hall. Brighter Days, a title chosen by the artist, affirms his optimistic view of our shared future. Tracing the long arc of Edwards’ career, these six sculptures encourage us to remain mindful of the past as we cherish the social linkages that are more important than ever.”



  1. Powerfully significant. Beautiful.

  2. I’ve gone 3 separate times now to try to see this exhibit, and City Hall Park has been “closed to the public” every time. On Sat morning there was some event going on, it looked like maybe a graduation ceremony or something. But the other two times last week, the park was completely empty and still shut.

    Does anyone know what the deal is? Why is City Hall Park so frequently closed to the public without any signs or explanation for what’s happening?

    • I emailed the Parks Department and they told me the NYPD controls it. I emailed the NYPD and they referred me to NYC Parks. You get the idea…