Maximillian William, London, is pleased to present Sensibilities, an exhibition of works by Melvin Edwards, David Hammons, Magdalene Odundo, and Reginald Sylvester II. Through experimentation each artist continually processes, refines, and kicks about their formal language, eschewing an entrapment of style in favour of a feeling, an attitude, an indelible sensibility.
The exhibition emerged from a talk by Reginald Sylvester II at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in March of 2023. Sylvester noted that his “favourite artists are those that don’t have a style, they have a sensibility”. He explained, “I want to have a sensibility rather than a style because then I can continue to search.” The three artists presented alongside Sylvester never affix themselves to a mode, instead, they develop an instantly recognisable vernacular across forms.
Dame Magdalene Odundo’s lexicon is informed by a deep knowledge of traditional processes, such as the Gbari method she learned while studying at the Pottery Training Center in Abuja, Nigeria. Built and coiled rather than thrown, and primarily practised by women, this technique is fused with Odundo’s characteristic hand-burnishing to produce a new sculptural language for a timeless medium.
A haptic engagement with surfaces is continued in Reginald Sylvester’s new work, T. Part of an ongoing series, the artist manipulates ductile materials such as tarpaulin and rubber to emulate immutable surfaces like aluminium or steel. Combining a painter’s sensibility with a sculptural presence, Sylvester’s large-scale work sustains his interest in the transformative potential of materials.
In Melvin Edwards’ sensitive welding, locks, horseshoes, and chains emerge from amalgamations of otherwise unidentifiable steel elements. These wall reliefs form part of his Lynch Fragment series, illustrating Edwards’ consistent interest in African-American history and his experience growing up in a segregated United States in the 50s and 60s. Edwards’ masterful metalwork interrogates both emblems of brutality and the poetic affect of abstraction.
On seeing Edwards’ work at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1970, David Hammons remarked that it was “the first abstract piece of art that I saw that had cultural value in it for black people… I didn’t think you could make abstract art with a message.” Hammons’ film Phat Free documents a performance from 1995 when the artist kicked a metal bucket through a streetscape. His proclivity for satire, wordplay, and a biting wit have come to define his practice, and in Phat Free David Hammons’ tactics of evasion are present in full.
Sensibilities | press release