Adam Pendleton’s (b. 1984, Richmond, Virginia) work is a reflection of how we increasingly move through and experience the world on a sensorial level—a form of abstraction that, in its painterly, psychic, and verbal expression, announces a new mode of visual composition for the twenty-first century. It investigates Blackness as a color, an identity, a method, and a political subject—in short, as a multitude. His work also poses questions about the legacy of modernism in the present day, reactivating ideas from historic avant-gardes across mediums and moments in time. Since 2008 he has articulated much of his work through the frame of Black Dada, an evolving inquiry into the relationships between Blackness, abstraction, and the avant-garde. It’s a visual philosophy that confounds the distinctions between legibility and abstraction, past and present, familiar and strange, reminding us that meaning always develops through difference.
This philosophy extends to Pendleton’s solo exhibitions. He approaches each space not just as a container for his work, but as a literalization of it. In a museum exhibition like Who Is Queen? (The Museum of Modern Art, New York) or Blackness, White, and Light (mumok, Vienna), his painted compositions inspire a structural intervention that physically implicates us, rearranging our perceptions and encouraging us to approach the work on our own terms. A similar phenomenon is at play in the works themselves. Each painting, drawing, sculpture, or film is a visual chorus of excited multiplicities. When these works come together in an exhibition, their polyphonic structure becomes both audible and visible.
Adam Pendleton is an artist based in New York. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at such notable museums as mumok in Vienna (2023), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (2022), The Museum of Modern Art in New York (2021), Le Consortium in Dijon (2020), and the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin (2017). His work has also been featured in the Whitney Biennial (2022), the Venice Biennale (2015), and other prominent group exhibitions, including Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America at the New Museum in New York (2021). Writing and publishing are central to Pendleton’s practice, and his many books include Pasts, Futures, and Aftermaths (2021), Who Is Queen? A Reader (2021), Heavy as Sculpture (2021), and Black Dada Reader (2017). Pendleton lives and works in New York.
by Adrienne Edwards