Story Feb 8, 2018 New York

Inside Look: 'Terry Adkins: The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled'

Take an inside look at Terry Adkins: The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled, on view at Lévy Gorvy’s New York location through February 17, 2018. Curated by Charles Gaines, Adkins’ close friend and frequent collaborator, this exhibition seeks to illuminate a revolutionary oeuvre through fresh eyes, grounded in the conceptual and personal rapport between these two groundbreaking artists. Gaines’ selection highlights the physical force through which Adkins activated materials in space, with an emphasis on the pure action of constructing and operating within the realm of abstracted narrative.

In an effort to infuse his sculptures with the intangible lyricism of music, Adkins expanded his approach to materials as both props for performances and monuments to the feelings that he extracted from them. The exhibition includes two Untitled works which accompanied his performance Buffet Flat (2008–09); the blown-glass figurines, reunited for the first time, are identical except for their discordant surface texture and hue. No longer accessories to a theatrical set, these amorphous shapes acquire an aura of their own, frozen in anticipation of musical accompaniment.

While such totemic “smooth” works are characterized by modesty, other works on view reveal Adkins’s distinctive approach to acoustics. Reply (1987), made during the artist’s Zürich residency, evidences the dialogue between metaphor and metonym that would become central to Adkins’ sculptural practice thereafter. Resembling a primitive tool frozen in the white cube, this work slices at the gallery’s physical limits. It projects from the surface of the wall in a precarious position that actively penetrates or “cuts” space, altering the timbre of the room. Its affective charge forms phrases in Adkins’ visual language; this work is separated from its former function in order to amplify its sensuality and aura.

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