• Photography by Tom Snelgrove

Terry Adkins

Terry Adkins

Terry Adkins (b. 1953, Washington, DC; d. 2014, Brooklyn, New York) established an interdisciplinary and frequently collaborative practice that encompassed sculpture, music, printmaking, and video. Engaging with the improvisatory spirit of free jazz, he sought to “find a way to make music as physical as sculpture might be and sculpture as ethereal as music is.”

Adkins grew up in a musical household. He played guitar, saxophone, and other instruments and counted John Coltrane, Nina Simone, and Jimi Hendrix among his influences. His early affinity for drawing was nourished at Fisk University in Nashville, where he studied with such luminaries as David Driskell and Martin Puryear. In 1975 Adkins completed his BS in printmaking and then pursued an MS in the field from Illinois State University. In 1979, he received an MFA in sculpture from the University of Kentucky. Adkins returned to DC, where he joined a free jazz band led by Yahya Abdul-Majid of the Sun Ra Arkestra.

It was Adkins’s residencies at the Studio Museum in Harlem and, subsequently, P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center which prompted the artist’s experimentation with sculpture, installation and performative practice. In 1986, Adkins was awarded a residency in Zürich, where he founded the Lone Wolf Recital Corps, a performance collaborative featuring a rotating ensemble of artists, musicians, and friends, such as Charles Gaines, Kamau Patton, Jacolby Satterwhite, and Jamaaladeen Tacuma. He termed the group’s multimedia happenings “recitals.”

Adkins’s recitals were often dedicated to recovering the narratives of historical figures important to the cultures of the African diaspora, including botanist and inventor George Washington Carver, musician Jimi Hendrix, intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois, composer Ludwig van Beethoven, and blues singer Bessie Smith. Adkins reached beyond conventional interpretations of the past in his “abstract portraiture,” coming to understand his subjects through site-specific research, engaging relevant contemporary communities, and employing historically potent materials for his installations and recitals.

In 1995, Thelma Golden curated an exhibition of Adkins’s work at the Whitney Museum of American Art at Phillip Morris, including his Akrhaphones: giant horns which are both sculptures and invented instruments. In 1999, Adkins mounted a solo exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia and in 2000 he joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design in the departments of Fine Arts and Africana Studies. In 2009, he received the Jesse Howard, Jr. / Jacob H. Lazarus—Metropolitan Museum of Art Rome Prize. A retrospective of his work, Terry Adkins Recital, was organized in 2012 by the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York.

On February 8, 2014, Adkins passed away at the age of 59. His work has posthumously been included in significant international exhibitions including the 2014 Whitney Biennial, the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015, and the 2015–16 traveling exhibition The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now. In 2017, the Museum of Modern Art in New York hosted the first exhibition and performance series to reunite the Lone Wolf Recital Corps since Adkins's death. Important solo exhibitions of his work include Terry Adkins: Infinity Is Always Less Than One at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (2018); Our Sons and Daughter Ever on The Altar co-presented by Frist Museum and Fisk University, Nashville (2020); and Resounding at the Pulitzer Art Foundation, St. Louis (2020).

Work by Adkins can be found in the collections of major public institutions, including Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; de Young, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles; Art Bridges Foundation, Bentonville, Arkansas; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; and Pérez Art Museum Miami.

In 2018, Lévy Gorvy held its first monographic exhibition with Adkins's estate: Terry Adkins: The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled, curated by the artist’s friend and collaborator Charles Gaines. The accompanying catalogue includes essays by Gaines and art historian Michael Brenson and features poems written by Robin Coste Lewis.

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Selected Works

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  • Terry Adkins's "Mvet Majestic II", 1989

    Terry Adkins
    Mvet Majestic II
    1989
    Wood and acrylic
    Overall dimensions variable: approx. 80 x 36 x 2 inches (203.2 x 91.4 x 5.1 cm)
    © Terry Adkins. Courtesy of the Estate of Terry Adkins
    Photo: Tom Powel Imaging

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  • Terry Adkins. Ars Memoria Alexandria, 2012

    Terry Adkins
    Ars Memoria Alexandria
    2012
    Digital print
    Framed Dimensions:
    64 1/2 x 43 1/2 inches (163.8 x 110.5 cm)
    © Terry Adkins. Courtesy of the Estate of Terry Adkins

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  • Terry Adkins. Bona Fide, 2000

    Terry Adkins
    Bona Fide
    2000
    Stencil board
    86 inches (218.4 cm) in diameter
    © Terry Adkins. Courtesy of the Estate of Terry Adkins
    Photo: Tom Powel Imaging

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  • Terry Adkins. Untitled (Bessie Smith Head, Red), 2007

    Terry Adkins
    Untitled (Bessie Smith Head, Red)
    2007
    Blown glass
    20 x 16 x 11 inches (50.8 x 40.6 x 27.9 cm)
    © Terry Adkins. Courtesy of the Estate of Terry Adkins
    Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

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  • Terry Adkins. Akhenaten, 2013

    Terry Adkins
    Akhenaten
    2013
    Steel, glass, wood, and plaster
    63 x 54 x 18 inches (160 x 137.2 x 45.7 cm)
    © Terry Adkins. Courtesy of the Estate of Terry Adkins
    Photo: Tom Powel Imaging.

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  • Terry Adkins. Columbia, 2007

    Terry Adkins
    Columbia
    2007
    Wood and enamel
    72 x 72 x 2 inches (182.9 x 5.1 cm)
    © Terry Adkins. Courtesy of the Estate of Terry Adkins
    Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

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  • Terry Adkins. The Swarm, 1989

    Terry Adkins
    The Swarm
    1989
    Wood, pigment
    72 x 6 x 16 inches (182.9 x 15.2 x 40.6 cm)
    © Terry Adkins. Courtesy of the Estate of Terry Adkins
    Photo: Stefan Altenburger

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  • Terry Adkins. Black Patti, c. 2007

    Terry Adkins
    Black Patti
    c. 2007
    Unique digital print on paper
    38 1/4 x 79 1/2 inches (97.2 x 201.9 cm)
    © Terry Adkins. Courtesy of the Estate of Terry Adkins

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  • Terry Adkins. Untitled (Disc Print, Red), 2001

    Terry Adkins
    Untitled (Disk Print, Red)
    2001
    Ink on paper made with metal music box disk
    30 x 30 inches (76.2 x 76.2 cm)
    © Terry Adkins. Courtesy of the Estate of Terry Adkins

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Video

Charles Gaines on Terry Adkins

January 22, 2020

Coinciding with Lévy Gorvy's solo presentation of Terry Adkins at FOG Design+Art 2020, artist Charles Gaines sat down with us to discuss the multidisciplinary artist's comparison to jazz and its sense of improvisation, repetition, and collaboration.

Exhibitions

Museum Exhibitions

Selected Press

Culture Type | Terry Adkins Conceived His Exhibitions as a Conversational Interplay Among Objects, Installations, and Musical Performances

May 1, 2020

Terry Adkins (b. 1953, Washington, DC; d. 2014, Brooklyn, New York) established an interdisciplinary …

WXNA Radio | Interview with Jamaal Sheats & Katie Delmez

March 2, 2020

A radio interview with curators Katie Delmez and Jamaal Sheats on the occasion of the Terry Adkins exhibitions Our …

SF Chronicle | Fog Art + Design makes a scene in San Francisco

January 22, 2020

Like its atmospheric namesake, the recent Fog Design + Art exposition extended its shift-shaping tendrils …

ARTFIXdaily | FOG Design+Art Draws Largest Crowd to Date for Seventh Edition of Fair

January 22, 2020

Lévy Gorvy organized a focused, survey solo booth of Terry Adkins’s work at FOG Design+Art — his …

BroadwayWorld | National Endowment of the Arts to Award Art Works Grant in Support of Terry Adkins Exhibition

January 16, 2020

The National Endowment of the Arts has approved an Art Works grant to support the presentation of "Terry …

Galerie Magazine | 8 Fascinating Finds from the FOG Design+Art Fair in San Francisco

January 15, 2020

An Upper East Side staple, Lévy Gorvy dedicates its entire booth to influential late American artist …

St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Eye-catching 2020 exhibitions show art from French painters to modern sculptors

January 2, 2020

Terry Adkins: Resounding at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation will trace the artist’s development over his …

Artforum | Terry Adkins: Our Sons and Daughters Ever on the Altar

January 2, 2020

This exhibition, which unfolds at two Nashville locations, pays tribute to Terry Adkins’s unique relationship …

Pride Publishing Group | Frist Art Museum announces 2020 schedule of exhibitions

September 6, 2019

In the Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery, the Frist presents ‘Terry Adkins: Our Sons and …

Mutual Art | 5 Artists to Watch in 2019

January 4, 2019

The American sculptor, composer and performance artist passed away in 2014, and has since been growing …

Sculpture Magazine | Terry Adkins

November 1, 2018

The work of Terry Adkins, who died in 2014, is nothing less than visually embodied philosophy.

Miami New Times | ICA Miami Mounts First Posthumous Terry Adkins Show

May 11, 2018

As part of the ICA's inaugural spring programming, the young museum is mounting the first posthumous …

The New York Times | She Married an Artist, and Now Finds Comfort in His Work

February 13, 2018

Today, Ms. Williams-Adkins is committed to preserving her husband’s legacy and last year brought his …

Contemporary Art Daily | Terry Adkins at Lévy Gorvy

February 9, 2018

Following Lévy Gorvy’s recent announcement of its representation of the Estate of Terry Adkins, the …

Art Observed | NEW YORK — TERRY ADKINS: “THE SMOOTH, THE CUT, AND THE ASSEMBLED” AT LÉVY GORVY THROUGH FEBRUARY 17TH, 2018

February 3, 2018

Soon after Lévy Gorvy announced representation of Terry Adkins’ estate, the gallery has opened …

Frieze | Terry Adkins

January 31, 2018

Terry Adkins, who unexpectedly died in 2014, left behind a multidisciplinary body of work that is hard …

Artforum | Critic's Pick: Terry Adkins

January 27, 2018

Consider Terry Adkins a chronicler of alternate pasts. The late artist’s performances and sculptures, …

Artdaily | Lévy Gorvy opens first solo exhibition dedicated to artist and composer Terry Adkins

January 12, 2018

Terry Adkins: The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled highlights the physical force through which Adkins …

Observer | Terry Adkins’ Sculptures Sing at New York’s Lévy Gorvy Gallery

January 11, 2018

The show at Lévy Gorvy, which now represents the artist’s estate, is called “Terry Adkins: The Smooth, …

The Financial Times | Terry Adkins exhibition shakes up New York

January 9, 2018

The show is timely. Adkins’ reputation has soared of late: his work was featured in the 2014 Whitney …

Blouin Artinfo | Terry Adkins: “The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled” at Lévy Gorvy, New York

January 8, 2018

Terry Adkins’ “The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled” is his first solo exhibition at the gallery. It …

Artnet | Editors’ Picks: 12 Things to See in New York This Week

January 8, 2018

This marks the gallery’s first solo show of late artist Terry Adkins, having just announced representation …

Blouin Artinfo | Top Art Shows in New York This Week

January 4, 2018

Blouin ArtInfo hand-picks a list of must-visit shows, including Terry Adkins at Lévy Gorvy. The show …

Culture Type | The 14 Best Black Art Books of 2017

December 18, 2017

When Terry Adkins (1953-2014) died suddenly three years ago, this catalog was in development. Understandably …

Artnet | Price Check! Here’s What Sold—and for How Much—at Art Basel Miami Beach

December 11, 2017

There’s a reason why Art Basel in Miami Beach has been dubbed the art world’s Black Friday. Judging …

Artnet | 10 of the Most Eye-Opening Artworks at Art Basel Miami Beach

December 8, 2017

At the fair, Lévy Gorvy has a 2013 sculpture that illustrates Adkins’s complexity. Sitting on a low …

Artnet | Lévy Gorvy to Represent the Estate of Terry Adkins

November 20, 2017

When art dealer Dominique Lévy first saw the work of American artist Terry Adkins a few years ago at …

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