“Adam Pendleton has created a compelling body of work that deeply connects our country’s past and present issues with race,” said BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director Christopher Bedford. “We are extremely proud to present his new work in a way that will make an impression on everyone who encounters it.”
Pendleton (American, b. 1984) is a voracious reader who uses his personal library of words and images to disrupt and reconsider preconceived notions of history and culture as they relate to the avant-garde and current and past socio-political movements. The animating force of his work is found in Black Dada—the artist’s term for a broad conceptualization of blackness. Black Dada combines “Black,” which Pendleton describes as “an open-ended signifier” and “Dada,” a nonsense word which recalls the name of the radical artistic movement that developed in response to the horrors of World War I by producing absurdist artwork that challenged the social order. A core question the artist addresses is: What does Black Dada look like? By fragmenting, layering, and collaging materials he reveals new and unexpected relationships between the past and present, language and image, and abstraction and representation.
Pendleton’s recent work includes language drawn directly from fraught periods in America’s racial and cultural history, including the Black Lives Matter movement. “The political dynamic isn’t new,” said Pendleton of Black Lives Matter. “What’s new is the language that is at once a public mourning, a rallying cry, and a poetic plea.” In the East Lobby and the Front Room Gallery, Pendleton provides historical context by evoking the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Several works pull apart the phrase “a victim of American democracy,” derived from a 1964 speech by Malcolm X titled “The Ballot or the Bullet,” including the four large paintings that occupy the main wall of the Front Room Gallery. Although not an exact quotation, the words capture Malcolm X’s conviction that democracy had failed African Americans. The paintings, featuring long linear strokes of black spray-paint, move beyond the significance of the language though and investigate the limits of abstraction and the perceptual potential of figure and ground dynamics. In Pendleton’s choreographed installation the viewer is empowered to decipher personal meaning as they navigate the space of the gallery.
Pendleton’s work has been presented in numerous solo exhibitions throughout the U.S. and Europe. His work is also in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Tate, London.
The BMA will host a public program featuring a conversation between Adam Pendleton and activist DeRay Mckesson on Saturday, March 25, 2 p.m. This talk is sponsored by the Friends of Modern and Contemporary Art.
This exhibition is curated by Helene Grabow, Curatorial Assistant for Contemporary Art. The exhibition is generously sponsored by Eddie C. & C. Sylvia Brown.