Nina Johnson is pleased to present Some Pictures and Other Songs, the first Miami exhibition of legendary artist, playwright, and musician Terry Allen. The exhibition opens on December 2, 2019 with a public reception (7-9 pm), and will remain on view through February 8. On display are approximately twenty new drawings, including new work from his ongoing series Homer’s Notebook and MemWars. Over the past five decades, Allen has moved from popular music to sculptural installation, all the while blurring artistic boundaries in a pursuit of freedom. On the evening of December 4, he will play an intimate concert in Nina Johnson’s living room.
Terry Allen grew up in Lubbock, the Panhandle city also home to Buddy Holly. And though it’s about four hundred miles to Mexico, the border has often defined his life and work. After studying at Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts) Allen sought about creating work that combined West-Coast Conceptualism with his own music. Starting with his 1968 series Cowboy & Stranger, Allen would fasten a reel-to-reel tape recording of a song to the back of a framed drawing. He called them “Paper Listening Movies.”
These led to the 1975 concept album Juarez, a double-album border corrido that follows four unforgettable characters as they traverse the boundaries of the U.S. and Mexico, sex and murder. Blending spoken word with honky-tonk, it was originally released with a portfolio of prints, and sounded like it was recorded first thing this morning. (It was, as it happens, recorded first thing in the morning; Allen traded some art for recording time at Jefferson Starship’s studio, but the only available slot was at nine a.m.) Allen stayed up the night before recording it, as if to get the sound of vision trails and highway hypnosis down on tape. Juarez is more than seminal, it is a haunting. As its characters hopscotch the border, and as Allen flits formally between pachuco jukebox and LA art school, Juarez shows the artist first surveying the vast cultural terrain he’d spend the coming decades exploring.
With the recent re-release of Juarez and two more of his classic albums—Lubbock (on everything), and Pedal Steal + Four Corners—Allen has found himself in a retrospective mode. The drawings in Some Pictures and Other Songs reflect an ongoing conversation with his literary and musical forebears, as well as fragments of the American landscape. In these poetic and intimate works, lines of text float across the images of movie theater chairs, portraits, trees and horses and motel architecture. The result is something both local and universal, long-gone and eternal. Amidst cultural strife and the latest iteration of the crisis at the Southern border, Allen’s timeless work takes on a new urgency.