Fonds P234 - Sur Rodney (Sur) fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Sur Rodney (Sur) fonds

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  • Multiple media

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the content of the fonds.

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  • [ca. 1900]-2022, predominantly 1974-2019 (Creation)
    Sur Rodney (Sur)

Physical description area

Physical description

1.3 m of textual records
ca. 1050 photographs
12 moving images
10 poster
8 sound recordings
3 scrap books
10 art works
1 photo-collage

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Sur Rodney (Sur) is a Canadian visual artist and multimedia performance artist, who is also known for his work as an archivist, writer and curator, but above all for his impact on the awareness about AIDS/ HIV and the Aids crisis in the arts scene.

Born as Rodney Adams in Montreal on December 28, 1954, he is the second child of photographer Desmond Rupert Adams and Jean Gertrude Adams, born Gordon. Sur Rodney grew up in the Jewish neighborhood of Mount Royal in Montreal, but his family was part of Montreal’s black community and Union United Church. In 1975, he officially changed his name from Rodney Adams to Sur Rodney (Sur), referring to himself as a surrealist. He was married to Gracie Mansion (then known as Joanne Mayhew Young) until 1989. Sur was married to Geoffrey Hendricks from 1995 until Hendrick’s death on May 12th, 2018.

From 1973 to 1975, Sur Rodney (Sur) studied at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts School of Art and Design. After having graduated, he moved to the East Village in New York City in the summer of 1976. At the time, Sur Rodney was working as a visual artist, mostly known through video projects. In the early 1980s, Sur became a member of the Blackheart Collective, a group of gay black poets, writer and multi-media performance artists, which allowed him to be included in various anthologies. At the same time, Sur Rodney (Sur) was program coordinator of The Sur Rodney (Sur) Show (1980) and the All New Sur Rodney (Sur) Show (1981), hosted on Manhattan Cable Television and featuring many young artists of Manhattan's Lower East Side. Also in 1981, Sur Rodney (Sur) and Tessie Chua co-produced the video Scary Truth About Cockroaches and Landlords. In 1982, Sur Rodney (Sur) “abandons his practice as a visual and performing artist to form a partnership with Gracie Mansion as co-director of the Gracie Mansion Gallery” in the Manhattan East Village. Later, Sur acted for two years as program director of Kenkeleba House, an African American cultural institution in Manhattan.

With the spreading of the AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s, Sur’s main occupation became the support of friends living with HIV/AIDS and the organization and preservation of their estates. From 1989 to 1994, he worked as an independent archivist for artists living with HIV/AIDS. He archived, among others, the estates of Swiss artist Andreas Senser, of photographer Timothy Greathouse, and of photographer Bern Boyle. In 1994, together with Geoffrey Hendricks and Frank Moore, Sur helped set up the Visual AIDS Archive Project to document the work of artists with HIV/AIDS and to secure the management of their estates. Sur also served on the Visual AIDS' Board of Directors for over ten years and worked on several curatorial projects and exhibitions relating to art and AIDS.

In the mid-1990s, Sur Rodney re-entered the art scene, working with Fluxus artist Geoffrey Hendricks on performances and other projects.

In 2012, Sur Rodney (Sur) received the Visual AIDS Vanguard Awards (VAVA Voom). In 2016, Sur was awarded the first ever Candy Darling Award during the Acker Awards for his community engagement as a community activist.

Custodial history

The fonds was transferred from Concordia University's Records Management and Archives Department to Concordia University Libraries' Special Collections August 19, 2015, March 2, 2016, and March 16, 2016.

Scope and content

The Sur Rodney (Sur) fonds gives an insight into the life and career of Sur Rodney (Sur), from his childhood in Montreal until today. It informs about his family background and early life as part of Montreal’s black community during the 1950s and 1960s. The fonds illustrates Sur Rodney’s work as an artist and activist, and it presents the North-American and more precisely the New York East Village art scene around Sur Rodney (Sur) from the 1960s to 2018, by the means of personal correspondence exchanged with Sur Rodney (Sur), exhibition catalogues, and documents related to The Sur Rodney (Sur) Show (1980) and the All New Sur Rodney (Sur) Show (1981). It also contains information about the AIDS crisis, the organization Visual Aids and Sur Rodney’s implication within this context.

The fonds is organized into the following series:

P0234/A The Adams family and Sur Rodney (Sur)’s personal life
P0234/B The Artist Sur Rodney (Sur) and fellow artists

The fonds includes, but is not limited to, photographs, art works, scrap-books, posters, speaking notes, correspondence, programs, flyers, newspaper clippings, ephemera, publications with contributions by Sur Rodney (Sur), moving images and sound recordings.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

The documents were donated to Concordia University Records Management and Archives department by Sur Rodney Sur in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014. Additional material was donated by Sur Rodney Sur to Concordia University Library, Special Collections in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.


Language of material

  • English

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    Restrictions on access

    Audio-visual material is restricted until digitized.

    Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

    Reproduction for research or private study is permitted.
    Use of material in publications cannot be done without permission of the copyright holder.

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    Box listings are available.

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    Further accruals are expected.

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