Terry Adkins, "Nenuphar"

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Terry Adkins, "Nenuphar"

While Terry Adkins’s latest assemblages are evocative, his real medium is history. He attempts to draw parallels between George Washington Carver and Yves Klein. The points of intersection between them are largely tenuous (for instance, that in 1935, Carver synthesized a blue pigment, recalling Klein’s blue paintings), and Adkins uses them to launch his pieces into poetic flights of fancy.

Little-known biographical details serve as jumping-off points for works like Progressive Nature Studies, in which a grid of Klein-like monochromes is juxtaposed with the title page of a book by Carver, also called Progressive Nature Studies—the point being, perhaps, that the two men shared a dogged pursuit of knowledge, whether esoteric (Klein) or hard to obtain (as it was for most African-Americans in the Jim Crow South).

Difficult as they are, the pieces sustain enough visual interest to make ascertaining their meanings as enjoyable as it is roundabout.—Merrily Kerr


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