Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

ALLEN, TERRY (b. 1943)

Terry Allen, whose genres include musical and visual arts, theater, film scripts, radio, and various collaborations, may be a Renaissance man in the sense of being a revivalist. His works have roamed topics as diverse as a hitchhiking Jesus, political terrorists, West Texas hookers, wrecks of art trucks, and a twelve-year body of work, Youth in Asia, on the Vietnam War.

Shortly after his birth on May 7, 1943, in Wichita, Kansas, Terry Allen's family moved to Lubbock, Texas. In the 1950s the Allen family's dance hall featured blues, country, and early rock 'n' roll and played a major role in shaping the teenage Allen as well as in desegregating Lubbock culture. Leaving Lubbock for Los Angeles, Allen earned a B.F.A. at Chouinard Art Institute in 1966. He continued creating visual arts while teaching at Chouinard and, through the 1970s, at California State University in Fresno. Allen now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

His recording career took off with the 1975 LP Juarez, which included in its packaging six original lithographs. Allen has also produced albums, collaborating with Jo Harvey Allen, David Byrne, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Wayne Hancock, and others. His most recent album (1999) is titled Salivation.

Throughout his career Allen has blended the visual and audio, forming works of irony and humor. He utilizes many mediums, from printmaking and painting to installation and public sculptural commissions. Corporate Head, for example, completed in 1991 for Citicorp Center in Los Angeles, realistically shows an attaché case carrying a bronze businessman whose head is imbedded in a stone pier on the ground floor. The George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston houses Allen's 3,600-square-foot sculpture installation Countree Music, which includes a music collaboration with Joe Ely and David Byrne. On the floor, continents surround Houston as the center of the world. A bronze-cast thirty-foot oak tree rises from the center, and from each continent an indigenous instrument plays as people walk over.

Since 1966 Allen's art has been included in more than 50 one-person exhibitions and 150 group shows, including the São Paulo Biennial, and the Whitney Biennial. His awards include a Residency Fellowship from the Wexner Center for the Arts in 1992, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1986, a Bessie Award in 1986, and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in 1970, 1978, and 1985.

Mo Neal University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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