The death of the extraordinary, innovative, and eclectic installation and multimedia artist, sculptor, musician, teacher, writer, and cultural critic, Terry Adkins is not only shocking but at the early age of 60 is a tragic loss for American/global art in general and the black artistic community in particular. It is impossible to overestimate what the brilliant and endlessly creative Adkins was consistently able to contribute to the contemporary art world and modern cultural discourse in the genres of music, visual art, design, multimedia, and critical theory. He was beloved not only as a dynamic and very important artist but as a revered teacher and mentor to many students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels as a Professor of Fine Art at the University of Pennsylvania. He and his work will be sorely missed by many not only in this country but throughout the world...
(b. May 9, 1953--d. February 8, 2014)
Terry Adkins, Composer of Art, Sculptor of Music, Dies at 60
By MARGALIT FOX
FEB. 22, 2014
New York Times
The cause was heart failure, his dealer Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn said.
A sculptor and saxophonist, Mr. Adkins was at his death a professor of fine arts at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. His genre-blurring pieces, which might combine visual art, spoken-word performance, video and live music in a single installation, had lately made him “a newly minted breakaway star” on the international art scene, as The New York Times described him in December.
Mr. Adkins’s work — cerebral yet viscerally evocative, unabashedly Modernist yet demonstrably rooted in African traditions — has been exhibited at museums and galleries worldwide, including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
His art is in the collections of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington; the Studio Museum in Harlem; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York; and the Tate Modern in London
“Terry always saw object and sound and movement and words and images all as the material for his art,” Thelma Golden, the director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, said in an interview on Friday. “He was so deeply inspired by aesthetics, philosophy, spirituality, music, history and culture, and he had such a fertile and generative mind, that he was always able to move between many different ideas and create a lot of space and meaning in a work.”
To his sculpture, Mr. Adkins sought to bring the fleeting impermanence of music, creating haunting assemblages of found objects — wood, cloth, coat hangers, spare parts from junkyards — that evoked vanished histories.
To his improvisational, jazz-inflected music, he brought the muscular physicality of sculpture, forging immense, curious instruments from assorted materials. Many were playable, including a set of 18-foot-long horns he called arkaphones.
The sculpture and the music were meant to be experienced in tandem, and with his band, the Lone Wolf Recital Corps, Mr. Adkins staged multimedia performance pieces that fused the visual and the aural. Many were homages to pathbreaking figures in African-American history, among them the abolitionist John Brown, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the musicians Bessie Smith, John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix.
Credit: Salon 94
To research a piece on the life of the African-American explorer Matthew Henson, who accompanied Robert Peary on several expeditions, including the one Peary said reached the North Pole in 1909, Mr. Adkins traveled to the Arctic to experience Henson’s milieu firsthand.
At its core, all of Mr. Adkins’s work was about how the past suffuses the present and vice versa.
Terry Roger Adkins was born in Washington on May 9, 1953, into a musical household. His father, Robert, a teacher, sang and played the organ; his mother, Doris Jackson, a nurse, was an amateur clarinetist and pianist
As a young man, Mr. Adkins planned to be a musician, but in college he found himself drawn increasingly to visual art. He earned a B.S. in printmaking from Fisk University in Nashville, followed by an M.S. in the field from Illinois State University and an M.F.A. in sculpture from the University of Kentucky.
Mr. Adkins, who also maintained a home in Philadelphia, is survived by his wife, Merele Williams-Adkins, whom he married in 1992; a son, Titus Hamilton Adkins; a daughter, Turiya Hamlet Adkins; his mother; two brothers, Bruce and Jon; and two sisters, Karen Randolph and Debbie Vereen.
His work was the subject of a major retrospective in 2012 at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. It has also been featured at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center (now MoMA PS1) in Queens, the LedisFlam Gallery in Brooklyn and elsewhere. In an interview with the website danaroc.com, Mr. Adkins spoke of his desire to reconcile the temporal imperatives of music with the spatial ones of art.
“My quest has been to find a way to make music as physical as sculpture might be, and sculpture as ethereal as music is,” he said. “It’s kind of challenging to make both of those pursuits do what they are normally not able to do.”
I moved into my studio number m-16 on the second floor of UPenn’s Morgan building around 4pm. I envisioned the next two years as a graduate student as time of serious (read analytical and humorless) study. I wanted to get started right away. I sat at my desk and started to draw and rationalize the stunning significance to humanity that each of my ideas had. After all, I was a serious professional, seriously. The seal on my temple o’ self-indulgence was broken around two or three in the morning by stomping footsteps and the tearing open of the grey curtain that stood in for a door to my studio. There was Terry. Terry and I stared at each other for about five seconds. Then he slammed the curtain shut as fast as he had opened it. A moment later he ripped the curtain open again, pointed at me and started belly laughing, shut the curtain and left.
Later that year I took Terry’s Sculpture Seminar. For an assignment he instructed us to come up with a project that we would want to do if we had an unlimited budget. I did the assignment half an hour before class. That day he had us post our assignments up on the walls of the white room. He walked around and discussed each assignment with the student who made it. When he got to mine, a quickly drawn image of the moon with a flat, one-sided Dr. Seusse-esque billboard advertising a smiling Don Rickles, he stared and nodded. He did not acknowledge what a waste of everyone’s time it was. Instead, he turned around and asked me if the billboard had two sides.
By my second and final year, I had come to really value Terry’s studio visits and enjoyed how much fun those half hour meetings were. However, I was not looking forward to my last visit with him as a Penn student. In order to maximize time in my studio, I took the class Jewish Humor and Terry’s class, Sonic Measures at the same time. For the last several weeks, I had been skipping Sonic Measures in order to finish up Jewish Humor. The morning of that last visit Terry strode into the middle of my studio, looked at me, and looked at my work. Then in a stern voice he said, “Mr. Slater you are making me look bad in front of the undergrads. You better have a great final project prepared, or I am going to fail you.” We then completed the visit out on the balcony of the Morgan building enjoying the beautiful spring day, laughing, and talking about art.
Terry is not someone I can sum up in one moment or in a single beautifully packaged lesson that he imparted to me. Instead, the lessons I value, and there are many, came in the form of a series of complicated, insightful, fun, and warm moments. He was just a terrific man, a wonderful teacher, and one of those rare gregarious and magnetic people who highlight the great pleasure it is to be a free thinker. Terry died too soon and this is a tragedy. He had a lot more to contribute as a teacher, and as an artist. I will miss Terry, and feel very lucky that I had the opportunity to know him, learn from him, laugh with him, and eat Tastykakes with him at 2am.
Kelsey Halliday Johnson
I remember standing in the Tang Teaching Museum in front of an old vintage trunk neatly filled with dozens of copies of the 1972 album Infinity attributed to John Coltrane. It was Terry Adkins’s 2012 exhibition Recital, and I found myself surrounded by a monumental vertical stack of bass drums, what appeared to be the guts of an oversized music box, large-scale x-rays, and other curiosities. But this specific work nagged at me, as the album had been controversial: Alice Coltrane had overdubbed and rearranged previously unreleased recordings from 1965-66, after John Coltrane had passed away.
Terry Adkins Recital
from The Tang Museum
"Recital" comprises a selection of work spanning the last three decades by artist/musician Terry Adkins. Born in 1953 in Washington, DC, Adkins grew up deeply invested in visual art, music, and language. His approach to art making is similar to that of a composer, and the exhibition is conceived as a theatrical score that punctuates and demarcates space, creating interplay among pieces in different media and from diverse bodies of work. Together they act as facets of a crystalline whole, reflecting and illuminating each other in ways that amplify their intensity.
Infinity. Cherokee trunk, John Coltrane Infinity albums
20 × 26.5 × 13.5 inches
Image courtesy of Salon 94
Alice took great liberties with the album, adding (perhaps blasphemous) orchestral string backings, re-imagining the rhythm sections, and inserting her own solos within the compositions. Panned by aficionados and critics alike, the album seemed like the kind of thing a nuanced and judgmental fan like Terry would have snubbed. The devotional, if not obsessive, collection of such a biased artifact seemed at odds with Terry’s work, which typically highlighted and honored overlooked facets of historic figures. As part of his practice, Terry was known to boldly ignore, if not rewrite, popularized posthumous narratives.
But Terry’s Infinity was not about John Coltrane. Terry would have been 19 when the vinyl album first hit record stores, and I learned that this work was in fact autobiographical. A young Terry Adkins had shoplifted a copy of the vinyl album. But later, after discovering an appreciation for recording artists and living with his guilt, he resolved to purchase the album every time he came across it. The Cherokee trunk on display housed over four decades of Terry’s life, filled with record store trips, late night eBay sessions, and many anecdote-worthy finds along the way.
Terry demanded honesty in art making from his students, and it was the courage and idealistic allegiance of Infinity that taught me the full content of his character. Surely, we have all done things blindly out of infatuation, lived with childish regrets, and looked back on our early influences as naïve forms of admiration. But Terry harnessed the energy of these feelings and the root of their social context as a launching point for new cultural narratives. It saddens me deeply to consider that the Infinity collection is no longer ongoing; this personal ritual must now be seen as a completed object with its final count of records.
Central to Terry’s life and artistic practice was his avid collecting of records, stories, photographs, history, artifacts, and art. The day (or should I say weeks) that he moved from one faculty studio at Penn to another became a sort of clown-car circus spectacle. The impossible quantity of knick-knacks and artifacts pouring out from one room confounded all of us, as we watched the common areas of our graduate studio building fill to the brim with taxidermied birds, drawings, and vintage metal apparatuses. Terry’s hobbies, collections, and artistic practice could be impossible to pin down from the looks of those weeks, but his deliberate and intuitive approach to finding objects that he claimed had “a spirit in them” proved all the more rewarding that summer day I stood surrounded by his austere and humbling work at the Tang.
He was a man of strong convictions and contradictions, which was what made him so lovable, challenging, and fascinating. I remember showing a body of work exploring vintage hand painted postcards (an early still-frame kitsch Technicolor that fascinated me immensely), when Terry cried out in the middle of a graduate school critique “Why are you collecting this nostalgic crap?” I was taken aback by his flippant accusation – the postcard collection had come to me quite recently from my late grandmother, a former stewardess, genealogist, and epistolary packrat. Yet some months later, we found ourselves immersed in conversation about the first African American Arctic explorer Matthew Henson, and the work Terry was planning as part of a residency in the Arctic. The names and history lesson felt oddly familiar and I quickly ran up to my studio and produced a postcard of a Robert Peary Arctic expedition that Henson accompanied from early 1900s. We were both baffled and amazed at the serendipity of the find. He looked at me with a mischievous grin, filled the room with his booming laugh, and said, “Well, I guess its not all crap.”
Terry was proud, but did not lack humility or humanity. His fascination with people was far reaching, but he valued his beautiful family above all else. He rooted for historical underdogs in his personal work and for his students in his academic work – providing as much contextualizing support and as many opportunities as he could muster. And for all of that, Terry will be tremendously missed and monumentally remembered.
Listening tonight to Infinity, I am struck by its genius. As many others have conceded, John Coltrane would never have released these tracks with string accompaniment, so the arrangement is certainly speculative. Yet with fresh eyes and loving hands, these recordings were recontextualized and sonically reconsidered in a way truly fitting for a living memorial. Infinity will never exist simply as a historic recording, but lives on as a dynamic interpretation of John Coltrane’s legacy. In many ways, it seems fated that Terry Adkins found himself ethically bound to this record as an artistic touchstone.
Sometimes, a straight historical recording cannot tell us the full story. Or as we continue to learn, those histories can be flawed, biased, or incomplete. We desperately need fresh perspectives to excavate the details and draw critical attention to people and places that have been missed. This reanimation of history and overdubbing of its story is at the audacious heart of everything that Terry accomplished. To have witnessed his bravery firsthand is a privilege for which I will forever be grateful.
Terry seized the moment! He was larger than life! He was a subversive classicist, a scholar, and impudent observer; he was whatever he wanted to be in the moment. He knew exactly what he believed, where he stood, and he never wavered. Never afraid of the limits of language, whether visual or literary, he was a master at juxtaposition and paradox. He understood and realized the eccentric possibilities of sculpture, performance and music (jazz) and with bravura created a body of work out of great strength and independence. An activist and magician merged into one.
Personally what bonded me to both the artist and the friend, Terry Adkins, was his infinite complexity – the fact that he understood that opposites are connected and embedded within each other, they create and transform, complement each other and create a greater whole. Terry possessed a nobility of purpose: to elevate matter to reveal the infinite essence of energy, with ‘Adkinsian’ style.
Couple this with his comedic warmth, an elegant and beautiful presence possessing intelligence honed both by the street and a classical education, he was impossible to resist. At once theatrical and improvisational, he merged opposites seamlessly with the grace of a poet.
Art by Terry Adkins:
Image courtesy of Salon 94
Terry Adkins, Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania, is the current Jesse Howard, Jr./Jacob H. Lazarus-Metropolitan Museum of Art Rome Prize Fellow in Visual Arts at the American Academy in Rome. On Friday 16 October 2009 his show Meteor Stream: Recital in Four Dominions opened in the Gallery of the American Academy, to a large and responsive audience from the AAR and the Roman public. Read a synopsis and interview with Adkins (in Italian, by Giovanna Sarno) here.
Meteor Stream is the latest incarnation of Terry Adkins’ ongoing cycle of site-inspired recitals on the abolitionist John Brown that began in 1999 at the John Brown House and sheep farm in Akron, Ohio. Commemorating the 150th anniversary of his Harper’s Ferry, Virginia campaign, the opening of Meteor Stream coincided with the inception of Brown’s 16 October 1859 raid on a U.S. armory to his execution by hanging on that December 2nd at Charles Town (West Virginia).
In Meteor Stream Adkins dutifully explores biblical aspects of John Brown as a shepherd, soldier, martyr, and prophet through a muscular communion of sound, text, video, sculpture, drawing, and ritual actions. He has also responded to new research for Meteor Stream that reveals incredibly far-reaching ties, binding the legend of this enigmatic American figure to parallel histories of Rome, the Janiculum Hill and the American Academy in Rome. The 16 October opening featured performances on reed instruments by Adkins, sometimes accompanying readings from various Brown-related texts by current AAR Fellow and poet Peter Campion. Chief coordinator of the show is Lexi Eberspacher of the AAR Programs Department.
Terry Adkins is an artist, musician, and activist who upholds the legacies of transformative figures from the past by reinserting them to their rightful place in the contemporary landscape of world history. His recitals are multimedia events that rely on the collision of imaginative intuition with the potential disclosure of unfolding biography and reclaimed materials.
Adkins has exhibited and performed widely since 1982, and his work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, among others.
6 Exhibitions for PennDesign’s Terry Adkins
Media Contact: Jeanne Leong | email@example.com 215-573-8151
April 26, 2012
As a teenager growing up in the 1960s, Terry Adkins, a fine arts professor in the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, was influenced by the major cultural, political and social events of the era -- and the music of Jimmy Hendrix. Adkins’ recital, “The Principalities,” which opened April 26 at Galerie Zidoun in Luxembourg, features that era and the singer, songwriter and guitarist, who died in 1970 at age 27.
Adkins’ work examines Hendrix from the perspective of his short stint in 1961 as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. Adkins casts Hendrix as an angel descending to earth described by Dionysius the Areopagite in his De Coelesti Hierarchia (Celestial Hierarchy) as being from the sacred order of the Principalities, who are princely angelic soldiers who govern the earthly realm of generative ideas.
Adkins presents his mixed-media work using architecture, sculpture, photography, video, drawings and sound.
Hendrix’s “creative imagination, charismatic persona and avant-garde fashion sense all changed my life,” Adkins says. “His progressive politics and otherworldly musings ushered in my manhood and expanded my consciousness.”
Hendrix’s profound effect on Adkins is reflected in the installation.
“I developed a heightened awareness of Eastern poetics by becoming a student of his compelling lyricism and a full-fledged pacifist upon hearing his Machine Gun,” Adkins says.
Six versions of Hendrix’s song opposing the Vietnam war are incorporated into “The Principalities” installation along with Martin Luther King’s “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” speech.
It’s been a busy time for Adkins, with exhibitions in 5 other galleries and museums worldwide.
Currently, he has a suite of prints, “The Philadelphia Negro Reconsidered,” exhibited on campus at the Amistad Gallery in DuBois College House.
His work is included in “The Bearden Project” at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and in “Intense Proximity” at the La Triennale in Paris.
Adkins’ work is also part of a group exhibition, “True North,” which opens in May at the Anchorage Museum of Art.
And, in July, Adkins’ work will be the subject of a 30-year retrospective, “Recital,” at Skidmore College’s Tang Museum.
Terry Adkins: "Darkwater" at Gallery 51
Presented with MCLA's celebration of W.E. B. DuBois
By Jane Hudson - 09/04/2006
Terry Adkins: "Darkwater" at Gallery 51 - Berkshire Fine Arts
An installation of sculpture/performative objects/sites as a tribute to the memory and works of W.E.B. DuBois at 51 Main St., North Adams, MA
"I am a sculptor, musician and latter-day practitioner of the long-standing African- American tradition of ennobling worthless things. My work is primarily forged out of the accretion of found materials in a process called "potential disclosure" (as opposed to found object). Therein I attempt to clothe the potentialities that the articles themselves suggest, stripping away the unnecessary to get at the essence of things. My approach to the creative experience is intuitive, driven by impulse and faith rather than by reason or dialectic critique." (from Terry Adkins artist statement)
Born into an era of rising African-American consciousness within the urban foment of Washington, D.C., Terry Adkins has been schooled in the language of contemporary art, poetic metaphor and the politics of race in America. These various syntaxes combine in his sculptural installations to speak eloquently of historical truths, emotionally evocative sites, and the wisdom of jazz.
In 'Darkwater' Adkins celebrates the soul-consciousness of W.E.B. DuBois who, more than any other figure in the struggle of African-Americans to attain full selfhood, combined oratorical power with a political philosophy that inspired generations. In 'Postlude', the central piece in the exhibition, Adkins constructs a trough-like container filled with water upon which float a grid of black spheres. At either end of the tank stand two transparent towers containing bubbling water which sparkles with internal light.. We are reminded of the bier of a dead prophet and the brilliance of his ideas that continue to fulminate.
Beside the main stands a large iron cage. It has the decorative quality of a pulpit perhaps, but also the dangerous affect of a prison cell. This is a cage! The artist uses iron quite liberally in many of his pieces, and it has the effect of reminding the viewer of manacles and other such devices used to constrain bodies.
This piece is one of the objects of 'potential disclosure' which the artist sets in motion with the suggestion of an action.
Pictured here wearing his saxophone, Adkins celerates Jazz as the redemptive force of his culture. Funerary drums hang with black crepe from which are suspended ink spools suggesting the powerful message hidden in the music of DuBois words. The drum, its roots in African life, is transformed in American culture to communicate the passion and brilliance of the disenfranchised. We are instructed about lynching with maps of the behavior, but we are moved to its reality by the harness and bells that hang from the ceiling. Music and violence have been welded together in the caldron of the struggle.
There is no question that this work is an indictment, but spoken with compassionate tenderness and devotion to the essential humanity it seeks to celebrate. If you can make it to the performance on Saturday, Sept. 9, it should be wonderful.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Terry Roger Adkins (May 9, 1953 – February 8, 2014) was an American artist. He was Professor of Fine Arts in the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania. He was born in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Fisk University with a B.S., from Illinois State University with a M.S., and from the University of Kentucky with an M.F.A. He leads the Lone Wolf Recital Corps that has premiered works at ICA London, Rote Fabrik, Zurich, New World Symphony, Miami, P.S.1 MOMA, and ICA Philadelphia.
Adkins died of heart failure at Brooklyn, New York in February of 2014; he was 60 years old.
4 External links
2009 Rome Prize 
2008 USA Fellows 
2012 The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York
2009 Gallery of the American Academy, American Academy in Rome, Italy
2006 Gallery 51 
1999 Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania 
1997 International Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
1995 Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris, New York
1987 Salama-Caro Gallery, London
1986 Project Binz 39, Zurich
^ "Salon 94 profile".
^ "Artist's Biographies". Driskellcenter.umd.edu. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
^ "PennDesign | Terry Adkins". Design.upenn.edu. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
^ "Charles Gaines/Terry Adkins Collaborative". NewMuseum.org. 2009-08-06. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
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^ "Penn School of Design Professor Terry Adkins Wins Rome Prize in Visual Arts | Penn News". Upenn.edu. 2009-04-20. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
^ Moyemont, Terry. "Terry Adkins - Profile - Visual Arts - USA Projects - Artist Fundraising & Advocacy". Unitedstatesartists.org. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
^ Terry Adkins RecitalJuly 14 - December 2, 2012 (2010-05-15). "Tang Museum | Exhibitions | Terry Adkins - Recital". Tang.skidmore.edu. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
^ http://www.exibart.com. "Terry Adkins - Meteor Stream". Exibart.com. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
^ Hudson, Jane. "Terry Adkins: "Darkwater" at Gallery 51". Berkshire Fine Arts. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
^ "Past Exhibitions > Terry Adkins: Relay Hymn - ICA - Institute of Contemporary Art - Philadelphia, PA". Icaphila.org. 1999-11-07. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
^ "Terry Adkins: Relay Hymn". Icaphilastore.org. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
"Terry Adkins", Dana Roc
"Terry Adkins", Artnet
"At the AAR Gallery, Meteor Stream: Recital in Four Dominions", by Terry Adkins After John Brown
Public artwork at the Harlem - 125 Street train station, commissioned by MTA Arts for Transit