Raised in Lubbock, Texas, the artist and musician Terry Allen (American, born 1943 in Wichita, Kansas) works in a variety of media including sculpture, painting, drawing, video, installation, theater, recordings, and performance. Allen reconstructs memory through storytelling, overlaying personal narratives with political and social histories. The American romance with the automobile and the open road can be seen throughout the artist’s decades-long career, as he came of driving age in the 1950s, filled with the promise of adventure and escape. Allen has noted: “The sense of hurtling through great black empty space…late at night on a dead straight line of asphalt with headlights shining…driving a car as fast as it would go…and listening to The Wolfman on the radio turned up as loud as it would go…is probably where every freedom I most value first began.”
Road Angel, 2016, a bronze cast of a 1953 Chevrolet coupe, embodies a range of emotional and nostalgic associations with the American automobile. The artist has placed this three-wheeled car far from any road, resting haphazardly amid the trees, as if the vehicle has careened off its path or the stage were set for a lovers’ tryst. Similarly to Allen’s first outdoor sculpture, Trees, 1986 (part of the Stuart Collection at the University of California, San Diego), Road Angel features an ongoing audio archive: recordings by musicians, artists, and writers emanate as if from the car’s radio at random intervals, recounting songs and oral histories lived in the backseat and behind the wheel.