Terry Allen - image via kutx.org

Terry Allen

United States 1943

Installation, Sculpture, Painting


Terry Allen
Terry Allen
United States
March 28, 2016

Terry Allen, a visual artist with a big heart, is one of the most loved personalities from the world of American Southwest. Musician, sculptor and theater enthusiast, Terry Allen is the perfect example of a Renaissance man. No matter if he’s composing a song or creating a sculpture, his unique sense of humor and criticism of the corporate machinery shine through his work.  His playful mind doesn’t take music and paintings too seriously and prefers to see them as a source of personal joy. He loves to cite the great master of photography, Man Ray, who once said : You know, it’s OK to be a really bad artist, because they don’t hurt anybody. Not like a bad doctor.

Terry Allen -Trouble in Paradise,1996 - image via moodlygallery.com
Terry Allen -Trouble in Paradise, 1996 – image via moodlygallery.com

American Southwest

Terry Allen grew up in Lubbock in Texas, which is certainly not the most exciting place for a child. Allen spent his young days hiding out in movie theaters and he knew every single theater in Lubbock in the 1950s. These places were shelter for young  Allen, who wanted to get away from problematic, alcohol-fueled atmosphere at home. Allen grew up in  a musical environment since his father used to sing and play country music at home, so it is not surprising that he picked up music at very early age. However, when it comes to painting, there was absolutely no one in Lubbock engaged in any sort of visual arts and Allen blames the city of Lubbock itself for the lack of talented individuals since it’s a boring flat place with harsh summers that last all year long, kill plants and make people tired. During his teenage years, the biggest visual impact for Allen came from the rock and roll stars and the aesthetics they cultivated. Also, once he was able to buy a car, he started to run away from Lubbock as often as possible.  He decided to move to California, where he went to (Choinard Art Institute) and lived in Los Angeles throughout the 60s, coming back to Lubbock only to visit his family. Already in 1966, Allen was established as a musician, sculptor and painter.

During his teenage years, the biggest visual impact for Allen came from the rock and roll stars

Terry Allen -The Man Who Dogs Follow Following Dogs, 1983 - image via moodygallery.com
Terry Allen -The Man Who Dogs Follow Following Dogs, 1983 – image via moodygallery.com

Multimedia Challenge

Allen discovered, after he graduated from Choinard, that he can’t choose whether he enjoys more music or visual arts, so he kept being engaged in both realms. He writes brilliant lyrics for his music and his songs can’t be simply categorized as regular country songs. What he creates is a fine blend of rock and country, in which he sings about universal topics that anyone can relate to, such as family, love, religion, and violence. His work in multimedia also deals with universal issues, but there’s a significant portion of humor present in all of Allen’s sculptures, paintings, installations, even stage and radio plays. A good example of Allen’s approach is his sculptural installation called Humanature. It consists of 2 life-size figures, one male and one female, carved in clay and cast in bronze. The female statue is standing upside down, attached to a stone into which her head disappears while a headless male figure in business attire is leaning against a tree, looking confused and overwhelmed with problems. There are also some unintelligible sounds coming from the nearby speakers, as a part of the installation. These two figures symbolize the common human trait of turning a deaf ear, which means avoiding to acknowledge and accept reality. This is a very common human problem, especially in the modern era when we have to deal with so many things at the same time and Allen made a humorous remark about this behavioral trait through his installation.

Allen’s figures symbolize the common human trait of turning a deaf ear

Left - Terry Allen - Corporate Head, 1990 - Right - Terry Allen - Humanature, 1992 - images via oliverranchfoundation.org joe gallery francisco harvey new texas
Left – Terry Allen – Corporate Head, 1990 – Right – Terry Allen – Humanature, 1992 – images via oliverranchfoundation.org

Winning People’s Hearts

Allen has received numerous awards for his work along with the great honors such as Guggenheim Fellowship and National Endowment for the Art Fellowships. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally, in San Paolo, Paris and Sydney. Also, his pieces are present in many private and public collections, the most notable among them being The Metropolitan Museum and MOMA in New York. Exhibitions are just a small part of Allen’s success – he has also written a theater piece Dugout which was published in 2005 and he has worked in both radio and theater. No matter his major awards for sculptures and in theater, Allen never forgot his initial love that was music and has recorded 12 albums of original songs, first one called Juarez  and his most recent one from 2013, named Bottom of the World. He is still very active artist not only in music – his latest group exhibitions were held in 2016, in Austin and Houston, TX.

Allen often uses animal sculptures to represent human vices

Terry Allen - Shioto Lounge Deer, 2014 - image via columbus.gov new texas san play juarez albums new texas joe gallery francisco harvey
Terry Allen – Shioto Lounge Deer, 2014 – image via columbus.gov

Importance of Humor

Terry Allen is equally famous for his music and visual art, but his paintings and sculpture have a wonderful complexity that completes his world of music. Allen is a musician who understood at some point that music is not enough and that he has much more to say. He chose visual arts as a means of the additional self-expression. His sculptures that can be found in various public places throughout the United States  are a brilliant commentary on many issues of the modern world, most notably the human obsession  with money, lack of face to face communication and slavery within corporate systems. All of that is wrapped up in Allen’s unique heart-warming humor.

The artist is represented by Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art.

Terry Allen lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Featured image: Terry Allen portrait – image via kutx.org
All images used for illustrative purpose only.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
201640th Anniversary ExhibitionMoody Gallery, Houston TXGroup
2016Centennial Impressions From The Fort Worth ModernFlatbed Press and Gallery, Austin, TexasGroup
2015The Aviary- Birds of FlatbedFlatbed Press and Gallery, Austin, TexasGroup
2014Terry Allen Alliance Gallery, Houston Arts Alliance, Houston, Texas Group
2013EditionsMoody Gallery, Houstin TXGroup
2011Ghost Ship Rodez: Works from The Momo ChroniclesGallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CA Solo
2010One on OneSite, Santa FeSolo
2007Day and NightL.A. Louver Gallery, Venice, CaliforniaSolo
2007A Tribute To Texas Art Meadows Museum, Dallas, Texas Group
2006Blurring Boundaries: Musicians Who Create and Artists Who PlayEllen Noel Art Museum, Odessa, Texas Group
2006Flatbed in MarfaJulie Speed’s studio, Marfa, TexasGroup
2005Early Bronzes and Sketchbook Studies Holly Johnson Gallery, Dallas, TX Solo
2005Stories from Dugout Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston, Houston,TX Solo
2004Voidville and BrandsGallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CA Solo
2003Hot Plates 416 West Gallery, Denison, TexasGroup
2003Voices & ScrawlBelgers Arts Center, Kansas City, MO Solo
2002Dugout Pillsbury & Peters Fine Art, Dallas, TX Solo
200230 Years of Landfall Press Gerhard Wurzer Gallery, Houston, Texas Group
2001Artists Collect ArtThe Nancy Wilson Scanlan Gallery, Austin, TX Group
2001PRINTSDRAWINGWRITINGThe Sheehan Gallery, Whitman College, Walla, WA Solo
2000Terry Allen: Works on PaperBannister Gallery, Rhode Island College, Providence, RISolo
200025 YearsMoody Gallery, Houston TXGroup
1999Terry Allen: IAH Airport Working DrawingsMoody Gallery, Houston, TX Solo
1999New To Houston: Recent Additions to Houston CollectionsThe Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TXGroup
1998Prints from the Collection of David DurhamGriffith Gallery, Nacogdoches, TX Group
1997Terry Allen: Prints 1974-1997 Michael Solway Gallery, Cincinnati, OH Solo
1997Household GoodsTexas Gallery, Houston, TX Group
1996The Bird Show West End Gallery, Houston, TX Group
1996Liquid Assets L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice, CA Solo
1995Bronzes & DrawingsUMKC Gallery of Art, Kansas City, MO Solo
1995Temporarily PossessedThe New Museum, New York Group
1994MappingUTSA Art Gallery, University of Texas, San Antonio, TX Group
1994Voices in the WildernessMoody Gallery, Houston, TX Solo
1993Voices in the WildernessL.A. Louver Gallery, Venice, CASolo
1993La Frontera-The BorderMuseum of Contemporary Art, San Diego,CAGroup
1992Printmaking in Texas: The 1980’s Laguna Gloria Museum, Austin, TX Group
1991Positions in the DesertGallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CA Group
1991Poets’ WalkCiticorp Plaza, Los Angeles, CA Group
1990Contemporary Assemblage: Dada and the Surrealist LegacyL.A. Louver Gallery, Venice, CA Group
1985China NightFresno Art Center, Fresno, CASolo
1985Sao Paulo BiennialSao PauloGroup
1980Terry AllenBaxter Art Gallery, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CASolo
1980Terry Allen & Charles GainesPhoebe Conally Gallery, California State University, Fresno, CA Group
1975Eight from California National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.Group
1975Juarez SeriesContemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TXSolo
19701970 National Drawing Exhibition San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, CAGroup
1970Terry AllenMichael Walls Gallery, San Francisco, CA Solo