Terry Adkins, 60, Artist Who Merged Music and Sculpture

By Fox, Margalit | International New York Times, February 25, 2014 | Go to article overview

Terry Adkins, 60, Artist Who Merged Music and Sculpture


Fox, Margalit, International New York Times


Mr. Adkins's genre-blurring pieces had lately made him "a newly minted breakaway star" on the international art scene.

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 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. …

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