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Truckload of Art

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9780306924545

Price: £28

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Drawing on hundreds of interviews with Allen himself, his family members (including actor and poet Jo Harvey Allen, his wife and artistic partner of more than sixty years), and his many notable friends, colleagues, and collaborators (from musicians like David Byrne and Kurt Vile to artists such as Bruce Nauman and Kiki Smith); full access to the artist’s home, studio, and voluminous journals and archives; and over twenty years of collaboration and friendship with Allen, author Brendan Greaves limns a revealing portrait, as deeply researched as it is intimate, as provocative as it is poetic, of a singularly multivalent storyteller of the American West.

Truckload of Art exhaustively traces Allen’s extraordinary life from his childhood in post-war Lubbock, Texas, spent ringside and side stage as the only child of a professional ballplayer turned concert and wrestling promoter father and a barrelhouse piano player mother, to his revelatory years as a wide-eyed art student and fledgling musician in incendiary 1960s Los Angeles, and through subsequent decades of troubles and triumphs doggedly pursuing an uncompromising artistic practice distinct from, and often contrary to, prevailing currents. With humour and critical acumen, Greaves deftly recounts how the artist built a career and cult following based on multiyear and multimedia bodies of richly narrative, interconnected art and theatrical works-including JUAREZ (ongoing since 1968), YOUTH IN ASIA (1982-1992), and DUGOUT (1993-2005)-and pioneering albums like Juarez (1975) and Lubbock (on everything) (1979), hailed as, respectively, among the most significant statements in the history of conceptual art and country music.

Allen’s adventures in art and music, from the mid-1960s through his recent renaissance, Greaves asserts, offer a fascinating alternate, or parallel, history of American artistry. It is a history in which established geographies and genre barriers do not hold-in which a song can also be a sculpture, and a play can spring forth from drawings-in which an unlikely confluence of Californian conceptualism and Texan country-rock challenges our preconceptions about the limits and borders of expressive culture, the longevity and productivity of artist marriages and creative partnerships, and what one artist can accomplish in one lifetime. Like Allen’s life work, Greaves’s deep-dive critical biography joins music, visual art, and theatre-braiding histories both personal and cultural-in the service of exploring the strange terrain of memory, of conjuring indelible stories, horrific and hilarious alike, out of the howling West Texas wind.