Texas Tech University

Down in the Dirt: The Graphic Art of Terry Allen

February – June 2022

The exhibition provides an unparalleled opportunity to span a complete chronological and conceptual range of Allen's artistic persona. His graphic art in the collection of the Museum of Texas Tech robustly demonstrates relationships among his narratives, music, sculptures, installations, and performance art. These graphics are among his most publically accessible works of art.

Reasons and Reasoning

Terry Allen is an artist dedicated to independence, creative dexterity, mistrust of authority, and wariness of hierarchy. Born in Kansas in 1943, Allen was raised in Lubbock, Texas. He assisted his father, a semi-professional baseball manager/player and impresario, to present music and wrestling events in West Texas. His mother, a pianist, handed down to her son a penchant for playing the keyboard. Allen left West Texas soon after high school and moved to southern California, enrolling in Chouinard Art Institute (BFA 1966). He exhibited regularly in Los Angeles and taught at California State University (1971 – 1979) in Fresno. He moved from southern California to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1987.

Allen has suggested that growing up in West Texas under the tutelage of his impresario father and ivory tickling mother provided early momentum for his narrative adventures. The artistic and musical consequences of this impetus are a fulcrum of border landscapes, southern frontera temperaments, and class conflicts. Allen fuses norteand sur. He embraces some forty years of an untidy amalgam of love, tears, violence, kindness, exploitation, food, language, sabotage, revenge, and, all too often, indifference. It is a heterotopia: known in Mexico as la frontera del norte, or simply el norte, and in the U.S. as the Southwest. It is a place of margins and exposed nerve endings.