Adkins’ art aims to set the record straight
Terry Adkins, Still (from Towering Steep), by Terry Adkins, 2000; steel, wood, glass, and whiskey. | Courtesy Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College
‘Terry Adkins Recital’
Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston
Through March 24; at 7 p.m. March 1, Adkins will present “Facets,” a performance with the Lone Wolf Recital Corps, at Regenstein Hall of Music, 60 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston. Free.
Museum admission is free; unless noted, admission to all programs is also free.
Updated: January 23, 2013 11:06AM
Sometimes history needs an assist.
So for more than 30 years, artist Terry Adkins has devoted himself to creating the gallery installations he calls recitals, and multi-media happenings involving music, sculpture, video, photography, spoken work, costumes and sound, all intended to set the record straight about unheralded or under-appreciated historical figures. Or to illuminate little-known aspects of the lives of more famous individuals.
Adkins has created a retrospective “Recital,” including new work and pieces from the past three decades, which will be on display through March 28 at Northwestern’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art. Bessie Smith, John Coltrane, Dr. Martin Luther King, arctic explorer Matthew Henson, Jimi Hendrix John Brown are among those honored in the exhibit. He will also present “Facets,” a live performance featuring his Lone Wolf Recital Corps on March 1 at Northwestern’s Regenstein Hall of Music.
Pioneer spoke with the artist about his method and his inspiration work.
Q: To what extent is your current recital a retrospective of your career?
A: This recital comprises both new work and selected pieces from previous recitals that I have created. The survey cover 30 years of work, most of which has never been gathered together in the same setting before. I guess you could say that this show is a Recital of Recitals.
Q: Why did you decide to take on the work of honoring under-appreciated historical figures? What was your initial inspiration?
A: My initial inspiration was to connect my work to a meaningful quest. To set out to use the biographical particulars of the history of heroic individuals posed interesting artistic challenges. To reinsert these figures to their rightful place within the panorama of history seemed to me to be an exciting and perilous place to operate from.
Q: It seems that many of the figures in this current exhibit are African-American. Do you tend to focus on them in your work—or people connected to important moments in African-American history such as John Brown?
A: The work is this Recital was chosen based on establishing a wide range of thematic and formal variety from a 30-year body of work. I don’t believe in the concept of race, so my decisions are never made from that point of view. My focus through working with the figures that I choose to honor has always emerged from the question of what it means to be human.
Q: You’ve said in the past that your approach to your work — blending sculpture, music, video, etc. — is similar to the approach of a composer. What led you to that concept?
A: My interdisciplinary approach is a natural outgrowth of being an artist/musician. I have always been compelled to fuse and invert the characteristic tendencies of both vocations in challenging ways. This has meant thinking and creating beyond the confines of categories.