Terry Adkins 

“My quest has been to find a way to make music as physical as sculpture might be and sculpture as ethereal as music is.”

Terry Adkins

Terry Adkins established a multifaceted, interdisciplinary practice encompassing music, sculpture, and video. Often composed with found objects and embodying the spirit of improvisatory freedom found in jazz, his works resonate with a powerful material presence and thematic associations inspired by his deep engagement with history. Born in Washington, DC, Adkins grew up in a musical household and counted among his influences John Coltrane, Nina Simone, and Jimi Hendrix. His affinity for drawing was nourished at Fisk University in Nashville, where he studied with Martin Puryear, David Driskell, Carlton Moss, Earl Hooks, Stephanie Pogue, and Aaron Douglas. Adkins completed his BS in printmaking there in 1975 and continued on to Illinois State University for an MS in printmaking, graduating in 1977. In 1979, he received an MFA from the University of Kentucky in sculpture.

Adkins moved to New York to pursue residencies at the Studio Museum in Harlem and, subsequently, PS 1 Contemporary Art Center. These experiences were incubators for his performative practice and springboards for his earliest investigations of sculpture and installation. In 1986, Adkins founded the Lone Wolf Recital Corps as a collective to collaborate on musical performances and art installations with a regularly rotating ensemble of artists, musicians, and friends. He deemed his performances to be Recitals and frequently dedicated them to the legacy of figures from the past. In the 1990s, he shifted his focus to creating assemblages and videos inspired by details from the lives of historical figures including John Brown, George Washington Carver, Michael Henson, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ludwig van Beethoven, Bessie Smith.

Surveys of the artist’s work have been shown by the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York (2012); Institute of Contemporary Art Miami (2018); Frist Art Museum and Fisk University, Nashville (2020); and the Pulitzer Art Foundation, St. Louis (2020), among many others. Adkins was featured in the 2014 Whitney Biennial as well as the Venice Biennale in 2015. Work by Adkins can be found in the collections of major public institutions, including Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; and Tate, London.


    • Terry Adkins: The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled
    • Lévy Gorvy, New York
      January 10 - February 17, 2018
    • Lévy Gorvy presented Terry Adkins: The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled (2018), its debut solo exhibition devoted to the acclaimed artist and composer after announcing its representation of the Estate of Terry Adkins. The exhibition explored the visual and conceptual concerns that defined the late artist’s sculptural output, inviting a new appreciation of his unique interdisciplinary practice.

      Curated by Charles Gaines, Adkins’s close friend and frequent collaborator, The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled illuminated a revolutionary oeuvre through fresh eyes, grounde...

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Selected Artworks

    • Terry Adkins
    • Untitled (Leather Wall Piece), 2013
    • Mixed media
    • 70 × 20 × 12 inches (177.8 × 50.8 × 30.5 cm)
    • Terry Adkins
    • Alanaryuk, from the series Nutjuitok (Polar Star) After Matthew Henson 1866, 2011
    • Digital Print
    • 36 × 48 inches (91.4 × 121.9 cm)
    • 1 of 5, 1 AP
    • Terry Adkins
    • Prophet, 2010
    • Nautilus shells, silk parachute, rope, tape, plaster memory jug, silver tray, cabinet, and starfish
    • 58 × 19 × 19 inches (147.3 × 48.3 × 48.3 cm)
    • Terry Adkins
    • Mvet Majestic II, 1989
    • Wood and acrylic
    • 80 × 36 × 2 inches (203.2 × 91.4 × 5.1 cm)

Selected Press