Art Basel Miami Beach Spotlight: Terry Adkins
Lévy Gorvy recently announced our representation of interdisciplinary artist Terry Adkins (1953–2014). We are thrilled to share Adkins’ work with the engaged audience at Art Basel Miami Beach. In January, we will present Terry Adkins: The Smooth, The Cut and The Assembled, an exhibition at our New York location, curated by artist Charles Gaines, who was a collaborator and longtime friend of Adkins.
Enjoy this spotlight on Reply (1987), on view at Lévy Gorvy’s presentation at Art Basel Miami Beach, Booth E6.
I like for the work to almost make itself and to think of myself as a composer, bringing disparate things into a harmonious balance of gesture and grace.
— Terry Adkins, “(Still) Getting Inside Getting Outside,” April 2000
Reply is one of a seminal group of sculptures created during a two-year stay in Zürich, where Adkins participated in residencies awarded by PS1 MoMA and Binz 39. It was during these years that Adkins founded the Lone Wolf Recital Corps, a sound-based performance collective whose core members, the Sacred Order of the Twilight Brothers, collaborated with a diverse and constantly revolving roster of musicians. The Corps—who most recently performed at Adkins’ 2017 solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York—would go on to stage a wide range of multimedia happenings and performances, all of which engage and interact with sculpture, music, video, or the spoken word. Termed “recitals,” Adkins led the group in performances that intimately incorporated his sculptures into musical, verbal, or movement-based choreography that sought to establish, as the composer George E. Lewis writes, “a hybrid of the historical and the synesthetic,” for they were often dedicated to a specific figure from the past whose story, Adkins felt, deserved augmentation or revision. Frequently incorporating costumes (most often a royal blue sash) and audio recordings into their events, Adkins sought to create experiences that challenged the separation between audial and visual, reimagining the gallery space as an environment in which seeing and hearing were in constant dialogue.
The Corps’ first performance was at Binz 39 in 1987, held in conjunction with Adkins’ solo exhibition Arbeit/Work, 1986-87, in which Reply was included. Like most of the Lone Wolf Recital Corps’ performances, their inaugural happening was dedicated to a historical subject, Amos Tutola (1920 – 1997), a Nigerian writer whose books were often based on Yoruba folk tales. The Corps members read aloud from both English and German translations of Tutola’s 1952 novel The Palm Wine Drinkard as a pendulum swung back and forth across the space. Written in modified Yoruba English, the magical realist novel takes the format of a quest tale, following the perilous journey of an alcoholic man who travels to the realm of the dead to try to revive the deceased maker of the ceremonial palm wine to which he is addicted, garnering insight and wisdom along the way. While the book received both critical and laudatory reviews—including a rave from the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (who would die of alcoholism the following year)—it became notable for being the first novel by an African author to be widely distributed outside of Africa, and it has since been incorporated into the canon of African literature. Covered in oxidized copper and mounted to the wall, the collated wooden beams of Reply evoke both a musical notation and an instrument, embodying Adkins’ manifold approach to the medium. The 1987 Recital, amplified by the sculptural installation in Binz 39’s space, thus presented an abstracted homage to an important work of literature while synthesizing the plastic and audial arts. Adkins stated of this group of works, “Embedded in the sculpture is the trace of sound, the trace of the nature of sound, even if the sculptures aren’t sounding.”
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