Society of Fellows

Obituaries

Terry Adkins, FAAR 2010

Portrait of Terry Adkins from Lorna Simpson's Cloudscape, 2004
Courtesy Salon 94

February 9, 2014

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We are saddened to announce the untimely death of artist and friend, Terry Adkins.

Terry was an intrepid and accomplished artist, performer, musician, and educator who approached his life and work with enormous spirit, audacity, humor, and indefatigable intellect. He was a beloved professor of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania, whose influence will be felt by younger artists for years to come. He died suddenly in his home on Friday night from heart failure. He was 60 years old.

Born in 1953, Terry graduated from Fisk University in 1975 with a BS, from Illinois State University in 1977 with a MS, and received his MFA from University of Kentucky in 1979. His approach to art making has always been like a composer, demarcating moments for silence, sound, and rhythm.  “Color and surface texture impart voice and character,” he wrote in 1990, along with form, they generate “harmonic resonances which can be absorbed as well as merely seen… The language of [my] work is esoteric, symbolic, abstract.”

Known for his instruments including a variety of immense horns, Terry frequently performed with his long-time band The Lone Wolf Recital Corps. His most recent performances profoundly moved New York City audiences both at The Studio Museum in Harlem and as part of Performa 13. Applying the improvisational and recycling nature of jazz to his exhibitions and sculptural series, Terry has riffed on biographies as a creative framework. His work has recovered and honored such figures as Jimi Hendrix, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Ludwig van Beethoven, Jean Toomer, John Coltrane, John Brown, Sojourner Truth, and most recently George Washington Carver and Yves Klein.

Terry’s work is currently included in the exhibition Radical Presence, organized by Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, which traveled to the Grey Art Gallery, New York, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and is going to the Walker Art Center in July. His latest work, three-dimensional representations of bird songs made from cymbals and percussion instruments, will be featured in the Whitney Biennial 2014, on view from March 7 - May 25, 2014.

Terry has presented solo museum exhibitions at The Whitney Museum of American Art (1995), Sculpture Center, New York (1997), Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (1999), the Bronx-River Art Center (2005), and most recently at the Tang Museum, New York (2012). His work is included in the public collections of The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Studio Museum in Harlem, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and most recently, The Tate Collection, London.  

Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Merele Williams-Adkins, his son Titus Hamilton Adkins, and his daughter Turiya Hamlet Adkins. We will miss Terry tremendously and mourn the loss of a great artist, performer and enchanter.

With Affection,

Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn |  Founder, Salon 94
Alissa Friedman | Partner and Director
Fabienne Stephan |  Partner and Director