Terry Adkins - Conceptual Art

«Terry Adkins, who passed away unexpectedly in 2014, left behind a multidisciplinary body of work that is hard to grasp in his absence. ‘My quest has been to find a way to make music as physical as sculpture might be,’ he said of his practice, ‘and sculpture as ethereal as music is’, which speaks to his work’s evanescence and its strong sense of ‘live-ness’. To fully appreciate Adkins, the artist should be present and, in death, he is not. Curated by the artist’s longtime friend and collaborator, Charles Gaines, ‘The Smooth, the Cut and the Assembled’ is an attempt to sample from Adkins’s sculptural side, and to develop a new life for the work now that he has entered the ‘spirit world’ which animated his approach to art.A native of Washington, D.C., Adkins studied and worked in printmaking, free jazz, found-object sculpture, installation and live-score performances – the latter often called ‘recitals’ – each of which obliquely meditated on prominent figures from African American history, including abolitionist John Brown, botanist George Washington Carver, Arctic explorer Matthew Henson and blues singer Bessie Smith. The recitals involved a rotating group of collaborators that Adkins dubbed the Lone Wolf Recital Corps, which New York’s Museum of Modern Art honoured this past autumn with an exhibition. At Lévy Gorvy, this crucial aspect of Adkins’s work is relegated to a small monitor with headphones showing a portion of Firmament, a 2005 performance at the Bronx River Art Center during the exhibition ‘Black Beethoven: Recital in Nine Dominions’.Entering Lévy Gorvy’s two-floor gallery, one is immediately confronted with music-oriented sculptures: Native Son (Circus) (2006/15), a circular mound of cymbals, slightly elevated from the floor, with hidden servomechanisms that very infrequently strike the cymbals from below, and Horus (1986), a found kick-drum head with a ghostly trace of its mallet dividing the white space, resembling a pressed flower.»

 

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