Terry Adkins, University of Pennsylvania art professor

TerryAdkins
TerryAdkins
Posted: February 15, 2014

Terry Adkins, 60, a University of Pennsylvania art professor whose works have been exhibited at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art and elsewhere, died of heart failure Friday, Feb. 7, at his home in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mr. Adkins lived there with his wife and two children, and also kept an apartment in Philadelphia, where he taught at Penn's School of Design.

A native of Washington and the oldest of five children, Mr. Adkins was exposed to the arts early. His father, Robert, was a singer and organist, and his mother, Doris, played piano and clarinet.

A career in art was almost a given, so he went about the business of pursuing it. After graduating from Ascension Academy in Alexandria, Va., he earned a bachelor's degree in 1975 from Fisk University in Nashville, where he studied printmaking and sculpture. He continued his printmaking studies with a master's degree from Illinois State University in 1977, and a master's in fine art from the University of Kentucky in 1979.

Mr. Adkins continued printmaking, but is best known for his sculptures, said his art dealer, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn of Salon 94 in New York.

He made abstract art and incorporated musical themes in his sculptures. He used everyday items and musical instruments such as horns or drums and stereos in his work. He performed music throughout his career, and his art exhibitions often included live performances on his horn, Rohatyn said.

In addition to the Metropolitan, Mr. Adkins' sculptures and other work have appeared at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and elsewhere, Rohatyn said.

Mr. Adkins was known for using biographical information of historical figures in addition to the music and modest materials that inspired his work.

"And combining all three of those things to come up with very poetic sculptures is unique to Terry, and to Terry's work and Terry's voice," Rohatyn said.

His latest works will be on display at the Whitney from March 7 through May 25. The exhibit, an artistic interpretation of bird songs Mr. Adkins recorded, features sculptures made from cymbals and percussion instruments.

Mr. Adkins joined the Penn faculty in 2000, and his family said he was a dedicated mentor.

"Terry has been an amazing teacher, artist, musician, provocateur, colleague, and friend to all of us in and around PennDesign, in the department of Africana studies, where he held a secondary appointment, and in the far larger world across which his works are seen and felt," Marilyn Jordan Taylor, the School of Design's dean, said in a statement.

He is survived by his wife, Merele Williams-Adkins; son Titus; daughter Turiya; his mother, Doris; two brothers; and two sisters.

A wake was Wednesday, Feb. 12, in New York.


lmccrystal@phillynews.com267-559-1264 @Lmccrystal

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