Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Review of 'The Sellout' by Acclaimed Novelist and Poet Paul Beatty: White Supremacy, American Literature, and the Cultural Politics of Gliberalism


Dwight “Yokum” Garner that pompously gliberal white supremacist literary critic from the NY Times is at it again, pretending that he actually knows what he’s ‘talking ‘bout (FAT CHANCE folks!). In the meantime it’s ominously clear that this boy ain’t no more up to the task of competently reviewing the work of Paul Beatty than he was with his truly execrable pseudohip doodling over the work of Amiri Baraka a couple weeks ago.  Garner still reminds me of those cocky white boys and girls who first learned to dance by fervently watching and imitating all the moves they appropriated from"raucous yet undeniably sexy" black videos produced on the new cable program YO! MTV RAPS after the black megastars Michael Jackson, Prince, and Rick James had their respective very wealthy record companies successfully threaten to SUE the new ambitiously apartheid network for ignoring/banning the work of black artists way back in the early ‘80s when Garner himself was in college and no doubt tuned in to see what the “fuss” was all about (and how much you wanna bet that many of them tuning in later inexplicably became acclaimed “urban choreographers”, turntabalists, 'rap journalists', and “hiphop curators”?) When I see Paul again (who not so ironically I actually hung out with back in the mid/late ‘80s in NYC) I’m going to remind him that cultural and political GLIBERALISM (a deadly accurate term that I first saw/heard Ishmael Reed use) became really popular (and depressingly useful) among white intellectuals in the mid to late 1970s AFTER the ugly dust had cleared following all the assassinations, riots, rebellions, and intellectual /activist trench warfare of the wildly subversive and tragically lethal 1963-1973 period.  Then we’ll have a drink, sarcastically lift our glasses in a loud and lusty toast to the inevitable Yokum Garners in this world and laugh really, really hard until our eyeballs actually fall out of their sockets.  So much for the power of litcrit these daze, huh?…


Review: ‘The Sellout,’ Paul Beatty’s Biting Satire on Race in America
FEBRUARY 26, 2015

Credit Sonny Figueroa/The New York Times

(b. June 9, 1962)

Paul Beatty is the author of four novels and two books of poetry, all of them worthwhile. But the book of his that I return to most is one he edited. It’s called “Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor” (2006).
In his introduction to “Hokum,” Mr. Beatty speaks about reading the canonical black writers as a young man and “welcoming the rhetoric but over time missing the black bon mot, the snap, the bag, the whimsy upon which” — I am working around a perfectly detonated vulgarity here — both righteous anger and freedom take flight. “It was as if the black writers I’d read,” he declared, “didn’t have any friends.”

Mr. Beatty ended his introduction by making a kind of promise, one his anthology kept. “I hope ‘Hokum’ beats you down like an outclassed club fighter,” he wrote. “Each blow plastering that beaten boxer smile on your face, that ear-to-ear grin you flash to the crowd to convince them that if you’re laughing, then you ain’t hurt.”

Mr. Beatty’s introduction was audacious on many levels, one of them being that he writes funny himself. His declarations in “Hokum” can’t help but read, in part, like Babe Ruth pointing to the bleachers in anticipation of pounding a ball straight out there. They read like the declarations of a man intent on standing, chuckling and delivering.

Deliver Mr. Beatty has. The first 100 pages of his new novel, “The Sellout,” are the most caustic and the most badass first 100 pages of an American novel I’ve read in at least a decade. I gave up underlining the killer bits because my arm began to hurt.

“Badass” is not the most precise critical term. What I mean is that the first third of “The Sellout” reads like the most concussive monologues and interviews of Chris Rock, Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle wrapped in a satirical yet surprisingly delicate literary and historical sensibility.

Mr. Beatty impastos every line, in ways that recall writers like Ishmael Reed, with shifting densities of racial and political meaning. The jokes come up through your spleen.

So much happens in “The Sellout” that describing it is like trying to shove a lemon tree into a shot glass. It’s also hard to describe without quoting the nimble ways Mr. Beatty deals out the N-word. This novel’s best lines, the ones that either puncture or tattoo your heart, are mostly not quotable here.

Most basically “The Sellout” is about a young black man born in the “agrarian ghetto” of Dickens, a neighborhood on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, who becomes an artisanal watermelon and weed dealer. One of the finer pot strains he develops is called Anglophobia.

He ends up before the Supreme Court because he is — wait for it — reinstating slavery, at least in his own house, and segregating the local middle school, boxing whites out. His sidekick and erstwhile chattel is an old man named Hominy, the last surviving Little Rascal. Hominy says things like, “You know, massa, Bugs Bunny wasn’t nothing but Br’er Rabbit with a better agent.”

Broad satirical vistas are not so hard for a novelist to sketch. What’s hard is the close-up work, the bolt-by-bolt driving home of your thoughts and your sensibility. This is where Mr. Beatty shines.

“Like most black males raised in Los Angeles, I’m bilingual only to the extent that I can sexually harass women of all ethnicities in their native languages,” our narrator deposes. He’s bluffing, mostly.

He’s a sensitive soul, attuned to the way the sunlight floods over his girlfriend, “turning the edges of her frizzy undone hair into a flaming corona of split ends and shame.” His favorite color is “the soft light-blue of a pool lit up at night.”

The son of a single father, who is a maniacal social scientist (the narrator’s absent mother was once “beauty of the week” in Jet magazine), he had a weird childhood. His allowance was called restitution. He was the subject of odd experiments.

“When I was seven months,” he tells us, “Pops placed objects like toy police cars, cold cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Richard Nixon campaign buttons, and a copy of The Economist in my bassinet, but instead of conditioning me with a deafening clang, I learned to be afraid of the presented stimuli because they were accompanied by him taking out the family .38 Special and firing several window-rattling rounds into the ceiling, while shouting, ‘Nigger, go back to Africa!’ loud enough to make himself heard over the quadraphonic console stereo blasting ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ in the living room.”

His dad takes him to the regular meetings of the Dum Dum Donut Intellectuals, held in a local doughnut shop, meetings that are a gift to an author primed to send up the pretensions of some black intellectuals. His dad never does get around to writing the best-selling memoir he hopes to write, which he considered calling “I’m Ai’ight. You’re Ai’ight.”

Prick the satire in “The Sellout,” and real blood emerges. The narrator’s father is shot dead by Los Angeles police officers for, basically, driving while black. There’s a surreal but aching scene in which the narrator drapes his father’s body over the horse he keeps on his urban farm and clops home through the streets, a pageant I’d love to see filmed by Charles Burnett.

Almost the entirety of black American culture and stereotypes are carved up under this novel’s microscope: Tiger Woods, Clarence Thomas (given a memorable line), Oreo cookies, fairy tales (“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your weave!”), Bill Cosby, cotton picking, penis size, Saturday morning cartoons, George Washington Carver, lawn jockeys, Mike Tyson. The “do-gooder condescension” of Dave Eggers comes in for a hazing. The American liberal agenda is folded into origami.

A bowdlerized version of “Middlemarch” for black students is retitled, “Middlemarch Middle of April, I’ll Have Your Money — I Swear.” A television crew asks a rioter if the looting and madness will change anything. The response, when it arrives: “Well, I’m on TV, ain’t I, bitch?”

The riffs don’t stop coming in this landmark and deeply aware comic novel. About Stevie Wonder, the narrator says his Latin motto should be, “Cogito, ergo Boogieum. I think, therefore I jam.” Ditto this book.

“The Sellout,” I am sad to say, falls into a holding pattern in its final two-thirds. Mr. Beatty still writes vividly, and you’re already up there at 30,000 feet. But the sense of upward thrust is mostly absent.

Yet this slashing novel puts you down in a place that’s miles from where it picked you up. It suggests, as the narrator’s father tells him one night, half-wasted on Scotch whisky, “The real question is not where do ideas come from but where do they go.” That’s not hokum at all.

By Paul Beatty
288 pages. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. $26.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Poetry As Knowledge, Power, and Critical Consciousness In the Work of Amiri Baraka + Review of SOS: Poems 1961-2013 by Claudia Rankine

"Why is We Americans” by Amiri Baraka --Video of poetry reading in 2002 on HBO--Def Poetry jam program, Season 1, Episode 4 + "Wailers" by Baraka reading in 'Poetry in Motion' film in 1982:

Amiri Baraka - "Why is We Americans”:

Amiri Baraka- “Wailers”:

Amiri Baraka performing "Wailers." From Poetry in Motion (1982).  Documentary film by Ron Mann.



Aime Cesaire, 1913-2008 (another GREAT POET) made the following profound statement about poetry and it applies 100% to the bright raging genius of the late and great AB…Pass the word...


"Poetic knowledge is born in the great silence of scientific knowledge. Mankind, once bewildered by sheer facts, finally dominated them through reflection, observation, and experiment. Henceforth mankind knows how to make its way through the forest of phenomena. It knows how to utilize the world.

But it is not the lord of the world on that account.

A view of the world, yes; science affords a view of the world, but a summary and superficial short, scientific knowledge enumerates, measures, classifies, and kills. But it is not sufficient to state that scientific knowledge is summary. It is necessary to add that it is poor and half starved...To acquire the impersonality of scientific knowledge mankind depersonalized itself, deindividualized itself.  An impoverished knowledge, I submit, for at its inception--whatever other wealth it may have--there stands an impoverished humanity...And mankind hs gradually become aware that side by side with this half-starved scientific knowledge there is another kind of knowledge. A fulfilling knowledge..

It was both desirable and inevitable that humanity should accede to greater precision.

It was both desirable and inevitable that humanity should experience nostalgia for greater feeling.

It is that mild autumnal nostalgia that threw mankind back from the clear light of scientific day to the nocturnal forces of poetry...

The poet is that very ancient yet new being, at once very complex and very simple, who at the limit of dream and reality, of day and night, between absence and presence, searches for and receives in the sudden triggering of inner cataclysms the password of connivance and power."
--"Poetry and Knowledge" (1945)

Sunday Book Review
Amiri Baraka’s ‘S O S’
FEBRUARY 11, 2015
New York Times Book Review

 Amiri Baraka, May 1970. Credit Eddie Hausner/The New York Times

(b. 1963)

Amiri Baraka eulogized James Baldwin on Dec. 8, 1987, by saying: “He was all the way live, all the way conscious, turned all the way up, receiving and broadcasting. . . . He always made us know we were dangerously intelligent and as courageous as the will to be free.”

This eulogy can aptly be turned back on Baraka himself, as “S O S: Poems 1961-2013” arrives a year after his own death. The sweeping collection, selected by Paul Vangelisti, begins with poems from Baraka’s first collection, “Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note” (1961), and ends with unpublished work written up to 2013.

Baraka began his career in the company of the Black Mountain School (Charles Olson, Robert Duncan), the Beats (Allen Ginsberg) and the New York School (Frank O’Hara), among others. He published “Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note” as LeRoi Jones, a downtown hipster dad of two daughters, married to the white and Jewish Hettie Jones. Many of his early poems are meditative lyrics in conversation with Ginsberg, Duncan, Gary Snyder and Olson, to name a few. The assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 brought Jones’s life as he knew it to a sudden close. He would leave his wife, children and poetic community; move uptown to Harlem; and eventually across the Hudson River back home to Newark, where he was born in 1934.

Baraka’s search for an ideological as well as geographical positioning saw him embrace black nationalism and become a founding member of the Black Arts movement, the cultural arm of the Black Power movement. He spearheaded the making of a revolutionary art that was recognizably black and oriented toward the working class. He wrote in “Short Speech to My Friends,” “The poor have become our creators.” By the end of the 1960s he changed his name to Amiri Baraka as he began fine-tuning his black poetic aesthetic: “We want a black poem. And a / Black World. / Let the world be a Black Poem / And Let All Black People Speak This Poem / Silently / or LOUD.” Inevitably, his outlook would become more global and international and he would turn to third-world Marxism.

These were the years defined by the assassination of black leaders, and informed by protests and riots across the country. The volumes Baraka wrote during this politically turbulent and transitional period are represented in “S O S,” which takes its title from a poem used as an epigraph:

Calling black people

Calling all black people, man woman


Wherever you are, calling you, urgent,

come in

Black People, come in, wherever you

are, urgent, calling

you, calling all black people

calling all black people, come in, black

people, come

on in.

Baraka’s poems criticized the black bourgeoisie, Nixon, “the owner Jews,” the “superafrikan Mobutu,” “boss nigger,” Kissinger, “Tom Ass Clarence,” “Spike Lie” and on and on — basically everyone in our global community whose motives and actions he questioned. His struggle to form a black poetics that could marry his activism, politics, history, culture and imagination represented his struggle to exist. He stood firm in his beliefs and demonstrated again and again in his poems the informed ability to hold complexity but not ambiguity. To know his fury was to understand both his limits and his genius.

For readers familiar with “Transbluesency: The Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones (1961-1995),” published 20 years ago and also  selected by Vangelisti, “S O S” can be considered an updated version. The omissions in “Transbluesency” — love poems to Hettie Jones, some well-known and often anthologized Black Arts poems — remain intentional omissions in “S O S: Poems 1961-2013.” In this sense the collection is selected with an emphasis not on culling the good from the bad but on presenting a certain narrative for Baraka, one not interested in his career in the archival sense. Additions to the 2015 volume include poems from the collection “Funk Lore” (1996) and the poems Vangelisti chose after Baraka’s death.

The “Funk Lore” poems maintain Baraka’s agenda of speaking truth to power. The breath and line are now firmly influenced by the improvisational techniques of jazz and suggest the spoken word tradition that is a contemporary standard. There is a conscious attempt by Baraka to align himself less with the modernist tradition and more with the jazz-influenced poetics of Langston Hughes. Poems are dedicated to Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. Voice and sound pull us through these performance pieces, challenging us to speak the poems aloud. In the ending of “JA ZZ: (The ‘Say What?’) IS IS JA LIVES,” scat singing is born out of the standard techniques of the line. Alliteration and rhyme pull the words right out of a mouth:

. . . africanmemorywhisper


the blown the known

what we knew

what we blew

blues loves us

our spirit is ultraviolet

The real prize of “S O S” is its final group of poems, labeled “Fashion This, 1996-2013.” The section opens with the autobiographical “Note to  AB”:

I became a poet

Because every thing

Beautiful seemed

“poetic” to me.

I thought there were things

I didn’t understand

that wd make the world

poetry. I felt I knew

who I was but had to

Struggle, to catch up

w/ my self.

Now I do see me

sometimes, a few worlds

ahead, & I speed up, then,

put my head down,

Stretch my stride out

& dig

There me go, I scat &

sing, there me go.

The use of the first person is intimate. The poem with subtle guile enacts Baraka’s changing relationship to poetic traditions. Capitalization creates a contrasting relationship between “Beautiful” and “Struggle.” Rather than catching up, he realized he had to dig in, which became its  own form of understanding. Then the “poetic” is in the “scat & / sing,” which is synonymous with moving forward.

The controversial “Somebody Blew Up America” — a poem that cost him New Jersey’s poet laureate position when its speculations were described as anti-­Semitic — is also in this section, along with “Arafat Was Murdered!” Both engage the Israeli-Palestinian struggles from an anti-Zionist position. In this light, Vangelisti’s framing of Baraka as the new Ezra Pound (he invokes M. L. Rosenthal’s statement that “no American poet since Pound has come closer to making poetry and politics reciprocal forms of action”) is provocative, given Pound’s politics.

“S O S” compiles the most complete representation of over a half-century of revolutionary and breathtaking work. Its final poem, “Ballad Air & Fire,” is a stunningly beautiful lyric dedicated to Baraka’s wife (now widow), Amina Baraka, nee Sylvia Robinson. The dedication “for Sylvia or Amina” suggests an inside joke, adding to the poem’s air of intimacy. But even in this final personal moment the language opens out to its community of readers. The final two stanzas become an everlasting, poignant entrance into silence:

to have been together

and known you, and despite our pain

to have grasped much of what joy


accompanied by the ring and peal of


romantic laughter

is what it was about, really. Life.

Loving someone, and struggling

Poems 1961-2013
By Amiri Baraka
532 pp. Grove Press 2015 
Claudia Rankine’s latest poetry collection, “Citizen,” was a finalist for the National Book Award, and is a finalist in two categories for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

IN MEMORY OF DORI J. MAYNARD, 1958-2015: Outstanding Journalist, Editor, Activist and Pioneering Force in the National Advocacy of Justice, Equality , and Self Determination for Journalists and Editors of Color in Mass Media

Dori J. Maynard, Who Sought Diversity in Journalism, Dies at 56

FEBRUARY 25, 2015
New York Times


The shocking and tragic early death of Dori Maynard at the age of 56 from lung cancer is yet another MAJOR LOSS for black people in this country and for American journalism in general. Like her beloved father the legendary journalist, editor, and publisher Robert Maynard (1937-1993) who also died at 56,  Ms. Maynard was one of the leading and most effective figures in the United States in the ongoing struggle for genuine racial equality and diversity in U.S. print and electronic media, as well as one of major leaders in the fight for true independence and self determination for African American journalists, editors, and publishers in the industry. To say that this visionary GIANT is going to be greatly missed is a huge understatement. To lose someone of Dori's intellectual, spiritual, and professional depth, clarity, strength, and passionate commitment at so early an age is simply overwhelming and another disturbing indication that we are presently losing major black leadership and creative talent in a wide range of fields generally at an alarming rate in this relentlessly cruel and debased society.

Our hearts and deep condolences go out to the Maynard family in their time of grief.  RIP Ms. Maynard.  We will deeply miss you and your inspiring pioneering work.


Dori J. Maynard speaking in 2013 at a public forum about the trial of George Zimmerman. Credit Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

Dori J. Maynard, a journalist who was at the forefront of the campaign to make the American news media a more accurate mirror of American diversity, died on Tuesday at her home in Oakland, Calif. She was 56.

The cause was lung cancer, her mother, Liz Rosen, said.

At her death, Ms. Maynard was the president and chief executive of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, a nonprofit organization based in Oakland and named for her father, a former editor and publisher of The Oakland Tribune. Mr. Maynard, who died in 1993, was the first black person in the United States to own a general-circulation daily newspaper.

A former newspaper reporter, Ms. Maynard joined the Maynard Institute not long after her father’s death and became its president in 2001.

There, she continued her lifelong interest in exploring the often rocky landscape where race, class, ethnicity and the news media converge. She lectured frequently on the subject and contributed articles to The Huffington Post, American Journalism Review and other publications.

During Ms. Maynard’s tenure, the institute’s purview included professional development, recruitment, a media watchdog program and a news service, America’s Wire, which provides articles on racial inequity and related subjects to newspapers, magazines and websites. To date, the institute has trained more than 5,000 minority journalists and newsroom managers around the country.

Dolores Judith Maynard was born in Manhattan on May 4, 1958; her parents divorced when she was 5. Her father’s second wife, Nancy Hicks Maynard, was one of the first black women to work as a reporter at The New York Times.

With colleagues, Robert and Nancy Maynard founded the Maynard Institute, originally known as the Institute for Journalism Education, in 1977; after Mr. Maynard’s death, it was renamed in his honor.

Dori Maynard earned a bachelor’s degree in American history from Middlebury College in Vermont and was later a reporter at The Bakersfield Californian; The Patriot Ledger, in Quincy, Mass.; and The Detroit Free Press, where her beats included City Hall and the coverage of poverty.

She and Mr. Maynard became the first father-daughter pair to be named Nieman fellows in journalism at Harvard, he in 1966 and she in 1993. Ms. Maynard was also a fellow of the Society of Professional Journalists.

With her father, she was the author of “Letters to My Children” (1995), a collection of his newspaper columns, for which she wrote introductory essays.

Ms. Maynard’s husband, Charles Grant Lewis, whom she married in 2006, died in 2008. Besides her mother, survivors include two brothers, David and Alex Maynard, and a sister, Sara-Ann Rosen. Her stepmother, Nancy Hicks Maynard, died in 2008.

Under Ms. Maynard’s stewardship, the Maynard Institute sought to educate not only aspiring journalists but also the profession of journalism itself, prodding news organizations to cast a wider net when it came to subjects deemed worthy of coverage.

“The conversation that goes on in the newsroom,” Ms. Maynard told NPR in 2005, “determines not only what stories get into the newspaper or onto your television or radio shows, but also determines all the elements that go into those stories.” She added:

“If that conversation is not managed in a way that allows the diversity of opinion that may be in your newsroom to be reflected in your coverage, important elements of those stories are left out, so that they become not only less relevant to communities of color, but they also shortchange the white community, because they are not finding out what’s going on in neighborhoods and communities other than their own.”…/oakland-dori-maynard-journalis…

Oakland: Dori Maynard, journalist and diversity champion, dies at 56
By David DeBolt
San Jose Mercury News

Dori J. Maynard of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, left, speaks during a forum at Preservation Park's Nile Hall in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, July 18, 2013. To the right is Arnold Perkins, of the Alameda County Public Health Department.

OAKLAND -- Dori J. Maynard, a journalist and longtime champion of diversity in news coverage and among the people who report the news,  died Tuesday at her West Oakland home, friends and family said.

Maynard was 56. The cause of her death was complications from lung cancer.

"Dori was an amazing force for good in journalism," said Dawn Garcia, managing director of the Knight Fellowships at Stanford University. "She was the voice that must be heard.

"When others were shying away from speaking about race, Dori was fearless. She made an amazing difference for so many people and was just a fabulous person, quirky in the best sense of the word. She will be remembered in every newsroom where journalists are trying to make a difference for diversity and for equity in coverage."

The Oakland Tribune and the Maynard Institute held the free public forum to discuss coverage of the Zimmerman trial and how media images impact perception. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) ( JANE TYSKA )

The daughter of trailblazing Publisher Robert C. Maynard, the former owner of the Oakland Tribune and the first African-American man to own a major U.S. newspaper, Dori Maynard knew from an early age she, too, wanted to be a journalist, her mother Liz Rosen said Tuesday.

Once asked what her middle initial "J" stood for, she quipped: "Journalism." After graduating from Middlebury College in Vermont with a bachelor's degree in American history, she went on to work at the Detroit Free Press, the Bakersfield Californian, and The Patriot Ledger, in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Along with her father, she was a Nieman fellow at Harvard University in 1993. She found her calling at the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, founded by her father and his wife Nancy Hicks Maynard. Dori Maynard had served as president of the institute since 2001.

Before her death, she had overseen the institute's Fault Lines training program, which taught journalists to recognize their own blind spots when it came to covering the stories of diverse communities. She was on the Advisory Board of the Journalism and Women Symposium, a national group supporting women in journalism.

"She's the kind of person who understood how this idea of diversity was so vital today and continues to be vital and needed to change from our old ways of thinking of what that meant and how to implement it in the production of news and the way we think about news," said longtime friend Sally Lehrman. "She was always thinking about work because she loved it and it was such a part of her."

Martin Reynolds, community engagement editor for the Tribune, said Maynard was a mentor and friend, who kept a presence at the Tribune even after her father sold the paper. She was a key part of Oakland Voices, an outlet for residents to tell the stories they want to tell.

Maynard was a mentor to many young journalists, Reynolds and friends said.

"I don't know what I'm going to do without her," Reynolds said.

Bob Butler, president of the National Association of Black Journalists and a reporter at Bay Area radio station KCBS, said, "It's hard to fathom how the institute is going to go on, but it's got to go on."

In a statement posted to its site Tuesday, the institute said, "Maynard advocated tirelessly for the future of the institute and its programs, reminding all that the work of bringing the diverse voices of America into news and public discourse is more vital than ever.

"Under her leadership, the Institute has trained some of the top journalists in the country and helped newsrooms tell more inclusive and nuanced stories. New programs are empowering community members to voice the narrative of their own lives. On the morning of her death, she was discussing plans with a board member to help the institute thrive and to attract funding to support that work."

Funeral services for Maynard are still being planned.

Staff writer Karina Ioffee contributed to this report. David DeBolt covers breaking news. Contact him at 510-208-6453. Follow him at

Dori J. Maynard, of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, speaks during a forum at Preservation Park's Nile Hall in Oakland, Calif., in 2013.

'Her Calling Was To Help People Understand One Another': Remembering Dori Maynard
February 25, 2015
by Kenya Downs
Code Switch--NPR
In a heartfelt tribute, Fusion Voice's deputy editor Latoya Peterson recalled her seven-year relationship with journalist Dori Maynard as one of "an advisor, a mentor, and a beloved friend." Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard institute for Journalism Education, died Tuesday night at her home in Oakland, Calif. She was 56.

Peterson, a prominent feminist activist who runs the popular blog Racialicious, wrote that while Maynard's accomplishments are endless, it's her lasting impact on diversity initiatives in the newsroom that is most notable:

"It isn't enough to say that Dori was a tireless champion for diversity. Her calling in life was to help people understand one other. She never minimized the role of race in society, and courageously brought the subject up again and again. She countered every excuse she could find, always holding journalism to a higher standard, to truly represent the people of the United States of America. She often stressed [that] the path to accuracy and fairness in journalism required a commitment to broadening the ranks of the press corps."

She argues that more than ever, we need to heed Maynard's fierce insistence that the journalism industry should reflect the diversity of the world it covers:

"Dori knew that changing the tone, tenor, and composition of newsrooms was key to advancing racial justice across the nation. As long as the news peddled in stereotypical and discriminatory imagery, as long as it played a role in stoking the fear and mistrust of nonwhite citizens, our nation could never be whole."

Peterson continued her tribute online, where she cautioned young journalists to appreciate the mentors helping them find their voice.
Racialicious founder Latoya Peterson has a tearjerker of a tribute to journalism diversity pioneer Dori Maynard.

It's Time to Recognize All Dads on Father's Day
Send by email
Dori Maynard
June 13, 2013

Dear Sheryl Sandberg,

You advise women to lean in and speak up. I’m taking your advice.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I was in the Father’s Day feature on which your Lean In Foundation collaborated with Time magazine. Not one African-American father appears on the Time website. I know it shouldn’t have shocked me.
Content audits, such as one by The Opportunity Agenda, tell us that even in the age of President Obama, the media continue to pigeonhole black men, consigning them to coverage about crime, sports and entertainment, out of proportion with their actual involvement. Equally important, the media rarely show black men in all of their humanity as doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, politicians, and yes, fathers.

Sadly, this feature is a stark example of the gap between coverage and reality, and not just because it ignores black fathers. There were also no Asian-American or Native American fathers in Time. I note that the magazine did a good job of presenting a cross section of white and Latino fathers.

Unfortunately, the other dads of color— one black and the other Asian-American — are relegated to your foundation’s website.

The problem with portraying such a narrow slice of fatherhood is threefold.

My first reaction on reading the list of fathers was, “Oh, no.” This is why I don’t read Time very often. It’s not that I don’t like Time; it’s just that it’s rarely relevant to my life. In today’s world, I don’t think any publication wants to so visually remind potential readers why they don’t read it.
I wasn’t alone. A quick look at the comments section finds others also clearly disappointed.

A commenter identifying herself as Claire Rodman wrote:
“TIME, it's been said, but it's worth saying again: There are plenty of black dads with daughters, and famous ones to boot: Mr. Poitier, Mr. Cosby, Denzel Washington, etc. Did you think we were all raised by single mothers? A lost opportunity, and likely some lost subscribers/online readers.”

The second problem is inaccuracy. As Rodman and other commenters noted, there are plenty of prominent African-American fathers. The same is true of Asian-American and Native American men with daughters. Yo-Yo Ma and Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the Senate’s first Native American, come to mind. Not including the wide range of fathers in this country perpetuates false stereotypes and gives readers a misleading sense of how their neighbors live and interact with family.

That brings us to the third reason. We’re in the business of giving the public credible, reliable information. A feature suggesting that only some men participate in raising daughters fails to meet our ethical and moral standards.
For those who question the necessity of diversity, this should be a reminder that having people with different perspectives in the room can help us see what we are missing. In 2011, Richard Prince, a columnist for the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, noted that Time magazine was losing its only black correspondent.
That loss increased the chance that no one at Time would flag the omissions. All of us need someone to prod us because it is so easy for us to fall in with people who reinforce our world view. It’s called homophily, otherwise known as “birds of a feather” or “love of the same.” I work in diversity every day and still find that I must push myself not to make that same mistake. Nevertheless, I sometimes do.

I have also developed a diverse network of people willing to call me on mistakes so I can fix them. That’s really why I’m writing to you. The beauty of online features means that they can easily and quickly be fixed.

Sheryl, it’s not too late to remedy this by reminding African-American, Asian-American and Native American girls that they, too, have fathers who love them and are worth noting.

Dori Maynard

Dori J. Maynard
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Dori J. Maynard, 2008

Born May 4, 1958
Died February 24, 2015
Education Middlebury College; Nieman Fellow
Home town Oakland, CA
Title President and CEO
Spouse(s) Charles Grant Lewis, deceased

Dori J. Maynard (May 4, 1958 – February 24, 2015) was the President of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education in Oakland, California, the oldest organization dedicated to helping the nation's news media accurately and fairly portray all segments of our[who?] society. In its 33 year history,[when?] the Institute has trained thousands of journalists of color, including the national editor of the Washington Post, the editor of the Oakland Tribune and the only Latina[citation needed] to edit a major metropolitan newspaper. She was the co-author of "Letters to My Children," a compilation of nationally syndicated columns by her late father Robert C. Maynard, with introductory essays by Dori. She served on the board of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, as well as the Board of Visitors for the John S. Knight Fellowships.

Past experiences

As a reporter, she worked for the Bakersfield Californian, and The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Massachusetts, and the Detroit Free Press. In 1993 she and her father became the first father-daughter duo ever to be appointed Nieman scholars at Harvard University; Bob Maynard won this fellowship in 1966.

She received the "Fellow of Society" award from the Society of Professional Journalists at the national convention in Seattle, Washington on October 6, 2001 and was voted one of the "10 Most Influential African Americans in the Bay Area" in 2004. In 2008 she received the Asian American Journalists Association’s Leadership in Diversity Award.

Maynard graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont with a BA in American History.

External links
Dori on Diversity
Huffington Post

Robert C. Maynard: Life and Legacy
                              Robert C. Maynard

Robert C. Maynard, a charismatic leader who changed the face of American journalism, built a four-decade career on the cornerstones of editorial integrity, community involvement, improved education and the importance of the family.

He was the co-founder of the Institute for Journalism Education, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to expanding opportunities for minority journalists at the nation's newspapers. In the past 25 years, it has trained hundreds of America's journalists of color, more than any other organization. In December 1993, following Maynard's death, the Institute was renamed the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

In the 1980s, Maynard began a twice-weekly syndicated newspaper column, in which he transformed national and international issues into dinner table discussions of right and wrong. His views were widely broadcast through regular appearances on "This Week With David Brinkley" and the "MacNeil Lehrer Report."

He was a board member of the industry's most prestigious organizations, including the Pulitzer Prize, The Associated Press, and the American Society of Newspaper Editors. It was his lobbying in the 1970s that nudged the ASNE to adopt the goal of diversifying America's newsrooms by the year 2000.

"This country cannot be the country we want it to be if its story is told by only one group of citizens. Our goal is to give all Americans front door access to the truth," he said in May of 1993 during his last public address, to college students at The Freedom Forum, in Arlington, Va.

Robert C. Maynard: A Tribute

View the video about Bob Maynard which was shown at the Free Spirit Award Dinner, held at the Paramount Theater, in Oakland, Calif., on June 14, 1994.

In 1979, Maynard took over as editor of The Oakland Tribune, which just a few years earlier had been labeled "arguably the second worst newspaper in the United States." He bought the paper in 1983, taking the title of editor and president in the first management-leveraged buyout in U.S. newspaper history. By doing so, he became the first African American to own a major metropolitan newspaper.

After a decade of ownership by Bob and Nancy Maynard, the newspaper had won hundreds of awards for editorial excellence. One media critic described the change: "The Tribune covers the Oakland area with far more insight than do its wealthier competitors in nearby San Francisco and the suburbs, and the paper has become a kind of journalistic farm team for larger papers such as the Los Angeles Times. The Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for its coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake, and its coverage of the Oakland Hills fire was nothing short of superb."

It was the earthquake and fire, combined with the national recession and a troubled city economy, that finally forced the Maynards to sell The  Tribune in 1992.

When the paper was sold, its most valuable assets were its loyal readers and advertisers, its scrappy editorial product and the most diverse newsroom of any major metropolitan newspaper in America.

Robert C. Maynard standing in front of the Oakland Tribune, 1993

"The Maynards devoted a decade of their lives to saving the newspaper when no one else would. They brought journalistic excellence and diversity to the newspaper unmatched in its previous century of publication," wrote competitor Dean Singleton in December 1992 after the MediaNews group purchased The Tribune.

"Bob Maynard's journalistic talents and dedication are of course well known. But he does not get the plaudits he deserves for business acumen. It is doubtful that The Oakland Tribune would be alive today if not for Bob's keen ability to maneuver through economic mine fields day after day, year after year."

Maynard, the son of an immigrant from Barbados who founded a New York moving company, dropped out of a Brooklyn high school at the age of 16 to become a writer in Greenwich Village in the 1950s. He had a photographic memory, and mastered myriad subjects through reading and inquiry. Ultimately, he held eight honorary doctorates. "My credentials," he told a sister on the day he decided to quit school, "will be my work."

His early role models, writers Langston Hughes and Ernest Hemingway, later gave way to his hero, Dr. Martin Luther King. But he did not want people to follow his path away from formal education. "I say to young people today that they must stay in school," he wrote in a column.  "Autodidacts, self teachers, are of another age, I tell them. School today is imperative. All the same, my adventures suited me and served me well. My sisters even agree, grudgingly."

Maynard was most proud of the Elijah Parish Lovejoy award he received from Colby College in Maine. The national honor is named for the owner of an abolitionist newspaper in Alton, Ill., who was killed by a pro-slavery mob in 1837.

"You have rallied employees in the face of uncertainty and citizens in the aftermath of disaster, fighting for the heart and soul of your adopted community the way Elijah Parish Lovejoy once did in his, with faith, nerve and a printing press," Colby President William R. Cotter said as he presented the award in November 1991.

Maynard's formula for community involvement was simple: Just do it. He taught at local high schools, attended community forums, organized  relief for babies of cocaine-addicted mothers and for victims of the Loma Prieta earthquake and the East Bay hills firestorm, and helped establish youth forums in the city's churches in the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict. His newspaper crusaded for improved schools, trauma care centers, economic development and better communication across cultural lines. A newspaper, he wrote in 1979, in his first Letter from the Editor column, should be "an instrument of community understanding."

Robert C. Maynard, York Pennsylvania, USA

His journalism career began in 1961 at a daily newspaper in York, Pa. In 1965, he received a Nieman fellowship to Harvard University. In 1992, his daughter, journalist Dori J. Maynard, became the first woman to follow her father to Harvard as a Nieman scholar. After Harvard, Bob Maynard covered civil rights and urban unrest as a national correspondent for The Washington Post. He later became the newspaper's ombudsman, and later still, joined the staff of the editorial page.

It was in Washington, D.C., that he met his bride-to-be, then New York Times reporter Nancy Hicks. They were married in 1975.

Maynard was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1988. It went into remission twice, but returned a third time in 1992 and was a factor in the family's decision to sell the newspaper. Even through his illness, Maynard was the quintessential optimist.

"The country's greatest achievements came about because somebody believed in something, whether it was in a steam engine, an airplane or a space shuttle,'' he once wrote. "Only when we lose hope in great possibilities are we really doomed. Reversals and tough times inspire some people to work harder for what they believe in."

Robert C. Maynard
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

                              Robert C. Maynard
Born Robert Clyve Maynard
June 17, 1937
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died August 17, 1993 (aged 56)
Oakland, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Education Harvard University
Known for Journalist
Editor of Oakland Tribune
Maynard Institute co-founder
Notable credit(s) The Oakland Tribune
Spouse(s) Nancy Hicks Maynard (1975–1993)
Children Dori J., David and Alex

Robert Clyve Maynard (June 17, 1937 – August 17, 1993) was an American journalist, newspaper publisher and editor, former owner of The Oakland Tribune, and co-founder of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education in Oakland, California.


1 Biography
1.1 Early years
1.2 Career
1.3 Personal life
2 Bibliography
3 References
4 External links

Early years

Maynard was one of six children to Samuel C. Maynard and Robertine Isola Greaves, both immigrants from Barbados. At 16 years old, he dropped out of Brooklyn High School to pursue his passion for writing. Maynard became friends with influential New York writers James Baldwin and Langston Hughes and later acknowledged Martin Luther King, Jr. as a hero.

Maynard's career in journalism began in 1961 at York Gazette & Daily in York, Pennsylvania. In 1966, he received a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University and joined the editorial staff of the Washington Post the following year.

In 1979, Maynard took over as editor of The Oakland Tribune and became the first African American to own a major metropolitan newspaper after purchasing the paper four years later. He is widely recognized for turning around the then struggling newspaper and transforming it into a 1990 Pulitzer Prize-winning journal.

Maynard greatly valued community involvement. He taught at local high schools and frequently attended community forums. His positive, proactive outlook helped many in need, including children of cocaine-addicted mothers and earthquake and firestorm victims. Maynard used the outreach of his newspaper to better the community by pushing for improved schools, trauma care centers, and economic development.

The Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education

In 1977, Maynard co-founded the Institute for Journalism Education, a nonprofit organization dedicated to training journalists of color and providing accurate representation of minorities in the news media. For more than thirty years, the Institute has trained over 1,000 journalists and editors from multicultural backgrounds across the United States.
Personal life

The Institute he co-founded with his second wife Nancy Hicks Maynard (1947–2008) was renamed in his honor after his death from prostate cancer in 1993. His daughter, Dori J. Maynard, has since become president and CEO of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

Maynard, Robert C. (1968). Nationalism and Community Schools. Washington: The Brookings Institution. OCLC 80975022.
Maynard, Robert C. (1982). Ralph McGill's America and Mine. Athens: The University of Georgia. OCLC 11822319.
Maynard, Robert C. (1989). Earthquakes, Freedom and the Future. Tucson: The University of Arizona. OCLC 22919891.
Maynard, Robert C. (1989). Communication in the (Shrinking) Global Village. Bridgetown: Central Bank of Barbados. ISBN 976-602-035-3.
Maynard, Robert C. (1992). Reflections on the Post-Cold War Era. Honolulu: East-West Center. OCLC 34489231.
Maynard, Robert C.; Maynard, Dori J. (1995). Letters to My Children. Kansas City, MO: Andrews and McMeel. ISBN 0-8362-7027-4.


"Robert C. Maynard: Life and Legacy". Maynard Institute. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
Mark Kram (2008). "Black Biography: Robert Maynard". Contemporary Black Biography. The Gale Group. Retrieved 2008-09-22.

External links

Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education official website
Robert C. Maynard at the African American Registry (archived by the Wayback Machine

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

IN MEMORY OF TERRY ADKINS 1953-2014: Innovative and Dynamic Conceptual Artist, Sculptor, Musician, Critic, Public Intellectual, and Teacher

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

IN MEMORY OF TERRY ADKINS 1953-2014:  Innovative and Dynamic Conceptual Artist, Sculptor, Musician, Critic, Public Intellectual, and Teacher

                   (b. May 9, 1953--d. February 8, 2014)


(Originally posted on February 24, 2014):
Monday, February 24, 2014

Terry Adkins, 1953-2014: Innovative and Dynamic Artist, Sculptor, Musician, Critic, and Teacher


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...


Terry Adkins interview

Terry Adkins, Composer of Art, Sculptor of Music, Dies at 60
FEB. 22, 2014
New York Times

Terry Adkins in the Arctic preparing a piece on Matthew Henson, a black explorer who accompanied Peary there in 1909. Credit: Tom Snelgrove

Terry Adkins, a conceptual artist whose work married the quicksilver evanescence of music to the solid permanence of sculpture, died on Feb. 8 at his home in Brooklyn. He was 60.

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.

His work will be shown this year as part of the Whitney Biennial, which runs from March 7 to May 25 at the museum.

“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.

“Meteor Stream: Recital in Four Dominions,” for instance, was one of a cycle of works in which Mr. Adkins honored Brown. In that piece, performed in 2009 at the American Academy in Rome, he explored Brown’s storied past through an amalgam of music, sculpture, video, drawing and readings from Brown’s own writings.

Mr. Adkins’s installation “Nenuphar,” which he showed at Salon 94 Bowery in 2013. Credit Salon 94

Mr. Adkins performing in New York in November; with him are giant arkaphones he invented.  Credit: Salon 94

In an installation devoted to Hendrix, Mr. Adkins homed in on lesser-known aspects of his subject’s personal history, including his service in the early 1960s as a paratrooper in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division.

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, 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.”

Terry Adkins, 1953-2014

Title Magazine mourns the loss of an utterly unique teacher and artist. Terry died at the height of his powers, his work included in the Whitney Biennial just weeks away. As a teacher, he helped to nurture a new generation of exceptionally talented artists including Jamal Cyrus, Jayson Musson, Demetrius Oliver, and Jacolby Satterwhite. We invite former students and colleagues to submit their remembrances to be published here for all to share. If you would like to contribute your stories and thoughts, please email, with the subject Terry Adkins.

Simon Slater

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.

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.

Kathy Goodell

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:
Infinity. Cherokee trunk, John Coltrane Infinity albums
20 × 26.5 × 13.5 inches. Image courtesy of Salon 94 Meteor Stream

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.

Terry Adkins, Aviarium, 2014. Steel, brass, aluminum, and silver, dimensions variable (installation view, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York). Estate of Terry Adkins; courtesy Salon 94, New York. Photograph by Bill Orcutt

Born 1953 in Washington, DC
Died 2014 in Brooklyn, NY


Interdisciplinary artist and musician Terry Adkins approached his artmaking practice from the point of view of a composer. He arranged his works in sculpture, performance, video, and photography—many of which feature modified musical instruments or other salvaged materials—into “recitals” presented to audiences. For Aviarium, on view in the 2014 Biennial, Adkins devised a sound-based installation that is entirely silent. Using aluminum rods and multiple sizes of stacked cymbals, Adkins rendered wave vectors of birdsong in three dimensions, making visible the diverse sonic patterns inherent to the songs of each (unidentified) species. The sculpted songs hover in place and answer the artist’s call to “find a way to make music as physical as sculpture might be, and sculpture as ethereal as music is.”

On View

Second Floor
Terry Adkins’s work is on view in the Museum’s second floor galleries.

Works by Terry Adkins

Terry Adkins, Aviarium, 2014. Steel, brass, aluminum, and silver, dimensions variable (installation view, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York). Estate of Terry Adkins; courtesy Salon 94, New York. Photograph by Bill Orcutt

Terry Adkins, Blanche Bruce and the Lone Wolf Recital Corps perform The Last Trumpet as part of the Performa Biennial 2013. Courtesy of the Estate of Terry Adkins and Salon 94, New York

Terry Adkins, Harvest, 2013. Blown glass, steel, fiberglass and aluminum, dimensions variable, Courtesy of the Estate of Terry Adkins and Salon 94, New York

Terry Adkins, Installation View, Nenuphar, Salon 94 Bowery, 2013. Courtesy of the Estate of Terry Adkins and Salon 94, New York.


Terry Adkins, Upperville, 2009. Concrete and quills, 36 × 20 × 12 in. (91.4 × 50.8 × 30.5 cm), Courtesy of the Estate of Terry Adkins and Salon 94, New York

Terry Adkins

Terry Adkins is an installation artist, musician, activist, and cultural practitioner who for 20 years has pursued an ongoing quest to reinsert historically transformative figures to their rightful place in the landscape of regional and world history. Although his "recitals" combine sculpturally based installations with music, video, literature, and ritual actions that intend to uphold and preserve the legacies of his chosen subjects, Adkins's work is always abstract and lyrical. An inspiration to younger artists for his uncompromising stance, he is also a dedicated teacher as Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania.
Originally posted February, 2006 Terry Adkins is a REVOLUTIONARY.

In a time and a place where courage seems to be waiting in the wings, Terry Adkins is front and center about what he thinks. About who he is and what he stands for -

Terry Adkins offers no apologies.

DR: Tell me. Terry, whatever it is that you want me to know about your life.

TA: O.K. Gee.

I grew up kind of gifted, with the ability to be able to render things like a photograph. So I was moderately inspired or encouraged by my parents in funny ways. For instance, for Christmas, my younger brother might get a Tonka truck, but I would get Leonardo DaVinci's Last Supper to paint by number. I can remember my mother saying "Don't mess it up! This cost me a lot of money!"

I never really considered a career as an artist. Often times when you are gifted with something you tend to be the first one to take it for granted because you don't think there is any thing wondrous about it. All of your friends, who are gifted with other things, might be able to recognize your gift easier than you can. I never really took it seriously until I went to college. I went to Fisk University and saw an exhibition there by John Scott who is an artist that is still active in New Orleans, and it turned me around. From then on I decided to be a  visual artist. I had always been a musician before that.

My quest has been to find a way to make music as physical as sculpture might be, and sculpture as ethereal as music is. It's kind of challenging to make both of those pursuits do what they are normally not able to do. That has been my challenge.

Another aspect of how I work is that I use figures in history whose contributions to society are either under known, under appreciated or just not given the stature that I believe they should have in society. In the past I'd do these events called recitals where I would do a body of abstract works that relate to the topic at hand. In the past they have been Sojourner Truth, John Brown, Zora Neale Hurston, John Coltrane, Ralph Ellison and W.E.B. Dubois, and others whose world view I find similar to my own.

My quest is to use abstract means, to educate the public about these figures through ways that are not image based or narrative based but to challenge them to think abstractly in relating to the stories of the lives of the people concerned.


Terry Adkins Recital from The Tang Museum on Vimeo.

Recital brings together a selection of work from the past 30 years by artist and musician Terry Adkins. Combining sculpture and live performance, Adkins has described his approach to art-making as being similar to that of a composer. His sculptures re-purpose and combine a range of materials, such as fiberglass propellers, wooden coat hangers, parachute fabric, and a variety of musical instruments in a process that the artist calls "potential disclosure," which aims to  reveal the dormant life in inanimate objects.

During performances with members of his Lone Wolf Recital Corps, Adkins activates these objects through improvisational playing and singing, spoken word, costumes, and recorded sound. These events intend to uphold the legacies of immortal and enigmatic figures such as Bessie Smith, John Brown, Sam Lightnin' Hopkins, Matthew Henson, and John Coltrane, among others. Adkins not only resuscitates individuals from historical erasure, but also sheds light on willfully neglected or ignored aspects in the lives of well-known figures, such as Ludwig van Beethoven's possible Moorish ancestry or Jimi Hendrix's military service as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne.

Terry Adkins Recital is curated by Ian Berry, Dayton Director of The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art  Gallery at Skidmore College, in collaboration with the artist.

DR: Terry is there something, when you think about your work or your life for that matter, is there something that
stands out that you are really proud of?

TA: Well, I am most proud of my...what I have partnered be my greatest creation, my son, OUR son, Titus and OUR daughter Turyia. They stand out because...

Well, in the instant a child is born you adapt a vision beyond your own lifetime and it brings things really into focus in your life. I find that, in the United States, there is very little vision beyond ones own lifetime. If there were then teachers would be the highest paid workers in society, as they are the caretakers of the future of the country. As it is in Korea and in other places where teachers are the highest paid. But in the United States, there is so much preoccupation with wealth being equated to success, and the billionaire is the hero of modern life and it is all backward to me. 

What I try to do is instill in my kids, so that they'll carry on the baton to make the world a better place -- that theses materialistic things really don't matter. It's what you carry within your soul that matters.

DR: How do measure success then, Terry - personally.

TA: Personally I measure success by being able to express myself freely, being able to exercise my creative imagination freely and if I am able to do that without any kind of hindrance and to, every once in a while, make
some money from it, although that's not really ideal, I measure that as a form as success. Also because I am a college professor at U Penn, I measure success by how well my students are then equipped with what I give them; how they then surpass me in their careers - which a couple of them already have.

DR: When people look at you, what do you hope that they see?

TA: Well, first of all, I know this is idealistic, but I would hope that the first thing...that they would not, at first, "race my face"; that they would be able to look past that to see a little deeper and to uh...

DR: Did you say "race my face"?

TA: Yeah. "Race my face". In other words Ornette Coleman has a saying in one of his songs that says "don't race my face to class my ways". Living in America...that would be a great achievement - to have that occur. Although I feel that particularly in New York City, or in many other urban centers, that it rarely does because of the negative images projected of Black men and the fear generated in cities by the images they see in the media.

If a person would be able to look at me to see past that, then we could then begin to relate to each other as human beings. The big question to day is "What does it mean to be human" and "How does that play out in relationship to what W.E.B. Dubois said" which is "The problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the color line.", which is so prophetic a statement as evidenced today in just about -

Smoke Stack 2003 Smoke Stack 2003
copper, aluminum, tar, 16.5 x 30 x 30 inches
DR: So if people were to look past your race, if they didn't "race your face", as you say, what would they see Terry?

TA: I have no idea. It's in the eye of the beholder and I think that they would see what they bring to it. I, however, am steadfastly -

I guess for any number of individuals, they would see any number of different things. What -- I would not begin to try and suggest. If they could get past the "face racing", that would be an achievement in and of itself.

DR: What do you think is most inspiring about you?

TA: I was born into a segregated America so, as a torch bearer of the way things were during that period, I guess, I would hope that people find it inspiring that there is a sense of self achieved from witnessing segregation wherein there were all sorts of Black businesses and entrepreneurship all around.

Having been educated at an all White, all boys, Catholic school called Ascension Academy, where I went on an on an academic scholarship from the 5th grade to the twelfth allowed me to acquire a sense of myself that didn't even deal with the idea of being inferior, but also didn't deal with the idea of being superior either. It made me, very early on, able to see that it was. Dr. King would say in "the content of one's character" that one should be judged - well not judged because you could say "Judge not, lest thou be judged", but the "content of ones character" is what matters most.

I got to see that the richest kids were also the dumbest. I got to see the social strata that exists in society, disappear because in the classroom everyone was equal. It really mattered how smart you were, more than anything else.

Very early on, I didn't really have any sense of any inferiority complex or anything like that. I think the sense of self and security in knowing oneself, I would think would be the most inspiring thing about me.

DR: What do you think that you have contributed to the world so far?

TA: I have tried to contribute to the creative area of Black art in America in a way that does not cow tow to a certain kind of "minstralry" - that's what I call it.

I think that the majority of Black art that you see in America is image oriented for a very particular reason. It relates back to this idea of "Brand Black" entertainment. America has never had a problem being entertained by Blacks in this country but always a problem being challenged by us. One of the troches of bringing back entertainment are - there are two of them. One is that it must first be posited in an a cartoon. And the second is that it try to explain the "being in the world of Blackness" to a White Art audience - through image. To me, it creates a situation wherein the Black art that you see today, 98% of it, which is image oriented, is not too far removed from the images that you see on Uncle Ben's converted rice and Aunt Jemima's pancakes that you now see in the grocery store. It is entertainment oriented toward an audience. I call it a very conciliatory Louis Armstrong-how-are-you-ism, that attempts to explain the "being in the world of Blackness" to a White audience. I am from the school of the Miles Davis-how-dare-you-ism, that deals with the principles of what

Afro-Atlantic culture is, not through the appearance of it in images, but through the principles that guide it that are very high order abstract thinking. This is evidenced by anybody that takes a look at African sculpture and the societal norms that created a society in which abstraction was primarily their means of expression.

If you look today you will see mostly image oriented stuff which I think is a crisis.

So, my contribution to the world, finally getting back to your question, is that I have maintained this connection, to genu gap a generation of African American artists who work entirely abstractly and, I keep that flame burning.

DR: I am inspired by that and I have never really thought about, or stopped to consider what you just shared, as it pertains to art.
Smoke Stack 2003 Particular Zither 19907 x 108 

TA: Well it's true of art. I think it's true of the athletic arena. I think it's true of song and dance. I think it's true, to a certain extent, to the movie industry. I mean Big Momma 2 is coming out. I mean c'mon! You know what I mean! Those kind of images, which I think Spike Lee really addressed in his Bamboozled film, are the result of a long history of Black entertainment in America, which has never ever been a problem. That's why Ben Vareen could do an Al Jolson thing at Nixon's inauguration.

Never a problem with entertainment -- Always a problem with being challenged.

And for the challenging side, you can see how people like Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Dubois were treated in this country.

The intellectual vanguard of Black America has always had a rough time because they didn't succumb to the entertainment value and the image thereof. The intelligencia has always, to a certain degree, been persecuted, particularly those who show a vision beyond; a world vision, that is beyond the fifty states of America.

DR: I think that these are not only interesting points that you bring up, but I think particularly relevant on a day like today when people are thinking about race on the heels of the death of Coretta Scott King and the contribution that she made. Those kinds of things have people contemplating the issue of race. What you are talking about is a layer that rarely gets addressed.

TA: Well, I think that you are right about the death of Coretta Scott King, rest in peace. The recent death of Rosa Parks, too, also focused it. The re-opening of the case of Emmit Till, his body being exhumed - all of these things have brought back the ghost of the Old South, right back into contemporary society.

DR: What I want to know Terry is, when you think about disappointment, is there something that disappoints you about yourself and how do you reconcile it, or live with it?

TA: Oh I often find disappointments. Sometimes I think I'm not being the best husband or father in the world, particularly when...

You know as well as I do that there is no text book on parenthood. There is no right way to do it. Every child that you come across will make you change the notes that you have already taken.

I have disappointments when I feel that in some way I have made improper judgments as far as they are concerned and may have wounded them in ways that I may never know. That's what I get disappointed by.

Sometimes you get disappointed - if I feel that I begin to get down on myself about sticking to my guns and how that might have compromised my career -- in sticking to my guns about this abstract thing.

So, sometimes I get a little disappointed maybe thinking that maybe, had I thrown in the towel and succumbed to it, I could have been more economically successful. But in the end I guess it's really not a disappointment because I feel more noble not taking part in it.

DR: And so is that part of how you reconcile it for yourself?
TA: Yes. That indeed is the reconciliation.

I think about the commercial aspect of it only in terms of how it might have benefited my family. So I get disappointed sometimes when I can't sell work and can't contribute financially through my creative efforts. But teaching takes a lot of the edge off that.

DR: Tell me -

A hundred years from now, what do you want to be remembered for?

TA: I want to be remembered as a creative individual, who in spite of the tide of the horizontal breadth of image ridden work by Black American artists, stood for something else; stood for something different.

I hope that a hundred years from now some little boy or girl somewhere, will see something that I have done, and pick up the baton and go on to continue the tradition.

Thanks Terry!


Terry Adkins, Artist, Musician and Educator, Dies at 60
By Andrew Russeth | 02/09/14
The Observer

  Terry Adkins. (Photo by LaMont Hamilton Photography)

Artist and teacher Terry Adkins, whose work in a variety of media earned him widespread and growing acclaim, died on Friday in New York at the age of 60. His New York dealer, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, who runs Salon 94, said the cause was heart failure.

“Terry was an intrepid and accomplished artist, performer, musician, and educator who approached his life and work with enormous spirit, audacity, humor, and indefatigable intellect,” Ms. Rohatyn said in a statement she released via e-mail. “He was a beloved professor of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania, whose influence will be felt by younger artists for years to come.”

Mr. Adkins grew up in a musical household—his mother was an amateur clarinetist and pianist, and his father played organ and sang in the  church choir—and music played a vital role in his practice. “I try to make sculpture and other works of art that have a feeling of being as ethereal and transient as music,” he told an interviewer last year. When it came to music, he added, “I’m a torch bearer of the avant-garde from the ‘60s, so that has a very visceral, kind of physical quality to it.” That description could equally well fit his meaty, elegantly  muscular sculptures, assemblages that often include wood, metal, textiles and found objects, like musical instruments (drums, horns) or stereo equipment, and that have the look of ritual or devotional pieces.

'Norfolk' (2012) by Adkins. (Courtesy the artist and Salon 94)
‘Norfolk’ (2012) by Adkins. 
(Courtesy the artist and Salon 94)

Picking objects to include in his assemblages, he said that he was interested in a process he termed “potential disclosure,” which he described as “an animistic approach to materials where you feel that they have more than just physical mass. There’s a spirit in them.” Sifting through junkyards early in his career, he would look for “materials that sing out to you, or identify themselves as being, of having the potential to do something else, besides just being in this junk pile,” he said.

His sculptures were often inspired by, and dedicated to, historical figures, from musical heroes like blues singer Bessie Smith, guitarist Jimi Hendrix (whose music he credited with saving his life, drawing him away from friends who were negative influences) and composer Ludwig van Beethoven to the writer and activist W. E. B. Du Bois and the abolitionist John Brown. What united them? “Super-human feats of singular vision, overcoming adversity and being able to affect large bodies of people by these actions,” he said.

Mr. Adkins was born in 1953, and was adept at drawing at an early age. “I didn’t consider it to be anything special because I was good at it,” he said, and instead focused more of his energies on music early in his life. He completed his undergraduate studies in 1975 at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., and earned an M.S. at Illinois State University in Normal, Ill., in 1977 and an M.F.A. at the University of Kentucky in Lexington in 1979.

He performed music throughout his career, forming the Lone Wolf Recital Corps in 1986, with which he performed widely, frequently as a component of art installations he produced. The Studio Museum in Harlem has a video of his recent performance with the Corps, as part of its “Radical Presence” exhibition (in conjunction with New York University’s Grey Art Gallery), available here.

A professor at the University of Pennsylvania, he was quick to say that he tried to keep his art-making and educating separate, but conceded on one occasion that, in his art, “I guess you could say that I am [teaching] in that I’m trying to educate the viewing audience to things that I feel would otherwise be forgotten.”

Terry Adkins, Blanche Bruce and the Lone Wolf Recital Corps performing 'The Last Trumpet' in the Performa 13 biennial. (Courtesy Performa/Salon 94)

Terry Adkins, Blanche Bruce and the Lone Wolf Recital Corps performing 'The Last Trumpet' in the Performa 13 biennial. (Courtesy Performa/Salon 94) Terry Adkins, Blanche Bruce and the Lone Wolf Recital Corps performing ‘The Last Trumpet’ in the Performa 13 biennial. (Courtesy Performa/Salon 94)

His work is held in numerous public collections, including those of Tate Modern, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

Mr. Adkins had recent solo shows at the Tang Museum at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and the Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., and has been tapped to appear in this year’s Whitney Biennial.

He is survived by his wife, Merele Williams-Adkins, and two children, Titus Hamilton Adkins and Turiya Hamlet Adkins.

Addressing his influences in a 2012 interview, Mr. Adkins mentioned the importance attending Catholic Church as a child had on his eventual art career. “This early exposure to…an architectural space that was meant for ceremony as well as contemplation had a profound effect on me,” he said.

“I don’t know whether faith is the right word,” he added later. “I think it has to do with my belief that art can be a force for change.”


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6 Exhibitions for PennDesign’s Terry Adkins

Media Contact: Jeanne Leong | 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.
Terry Adkins, jazz man

Terry Adkins
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Terry Roger Adkins (May 9, 1953 – February 8, 2014) was an American artist.[1][2] He was Professor of Fine Arts in the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania.[3] 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.[4]
Adkins died of heart failure at Brooklyn, New York in February of 2014; he was 60 years old.[5]


1 Awards
2 Exhibitions
3 References
4 External links


2009 Rome Prize [6][7]
2008 USA Fellows [8]


2012 The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York[9]
2009 Gallery of the American Academy, American Academy in Rome, Italy[10]
2006 Gallery 51 [11]
1999 Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania [12][13]
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


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^ "Salon 94 profile".
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^ "Artist's Biographies". Retrieved 2012-07-09.
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^ "PennDesign | Terry Adkins". Retrieved 2012-07-09.
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^ "Charles Gaines/Terry Adkins Collaborative". 2009-08-06. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
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^ [1][dead link]
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^ "Penn School of Design Professor Terry Adkins Wins Rome Prize in Visual Arts | Penn News". 2009-04-20. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
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^ Moyemont, Terry. "Terry Adkins - Profile - Visual Arts - USA Projects - Artist Fundraising & Advocacy". Retrieved 2012-07-09.
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^ Terry Adkins RecitalJuly 14 - December 2, 2012 (2010-05-15). "Tang Museum | Exhibitions | Terry Adkins - Recital". Retrieved 2012-07-09.
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^ "Terry Adkins - Meteor Stream". Retrieved 2012-07-09.
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^ Hudson, Jane. "Terry Adkins: "Darkwater" at Gallery 51". Berkshire Fine Arts. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
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^ "Past Exhibitions > Terry Adkins: Relay Hymn - ICA - Institute of Contemporary Art - Philadelphia, PA". 1999-11-07. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
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^ "Terry Adkins: Relay Hymn". Retrieved 2012-07-09.
External links[edit]
"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