Adam Pendleton

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Adam Pendleton
Born 1984
Richmond, Virginia
Nationality American
Known for Conceptual Art, Collage, Painting, Performance, Silkscreen, Video,

Adam Pendleton (born 1984, Richmond, Virginia) is an American conceptual artist known for his multi-disciplinary practice, involving painting, silkscreen, collage, video and performance.[1][2] His work often involves the investigation of language and the recontextualization of history through appropriated imagery.[1] His art has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, the New Museum, and other shows internationally, including La Triennale at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.[3] He has been featured twice in Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” list.[4][5] In 2012 Pendleton signed with Pace Gallery at age 28, the youngest artist to do so since the 1970s. His first show with Pace was at the gallery’s Soho London branch in the fall of 2012.[6] Famous collectors include Steven A. Cohen, Leonardo DiCaprio and Venus Williams.[7]

The artist splits his time between New York City and Germantown, New York.[6][8]

Approach to Art[edit]

In an interview with Bomb Magazine, Thos Donovan describes Adam Pendleton as, "a rare artist in his ability to synthesize disciplines and mediums, and to steer with collaborators toward “total works,” which yet remain drafts of a larger essayistic practice. His works—like those of his many avant-garde forebears—are experimental in the truest sense. He sets up a laboratory in which our social and political desires can appear, however fleetingly. …With Pendleton’s work, even though we are often left with aporias and blind spots, we feel the force of historical matter self-organizing and finding form beyond representability and essence.”[9]

Pendleton often juxtaposes imagery, language, music and concepts from a variety of subjects such as philosophy and important historical movements, creating complex art that allows for multiple interpretations. He has centered his concepts around moments of Black America such as the Civil rights movement of the 1960s, and the recent “black lives matter” movement that emerged following the murder of Treyvon Martin.[10]

Career / Featured Works[edit]

Pendleton came to New York from Virginia in 2002, at the age of 18, with the intention of becoming an artist.[6] In 2005 he joined the Yvon Lambert Gallery and had his first solo show, Deeper Down There.[6] The show featured two-color canvases with silkscreened lines from modern African-American literature and music, as well as paintings resembling enlarged record album covers. The New York Times wrote that Pendleton "takes a coolly intellectual approach to hot subject matter". It likened his work to that of Glenn Ligon, Lawrence Weiner and Ed Ruscha, and praised it for its "provocative reticence."[11]

Becoming Imperceptible[edit]

Becoming Imperceptible is Pendletons’ latest and largest Public Exhibition held at the Contemporary Arts center in New Orleans, Opening April 1, 2016.[12]

Its name comes from the Philosophical works of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Becoming Imperceptible aims to create a “counter-portitrature” by blending historical avant grade with historical Black Movements. The main concept is the merging of disparate ideas, people and imagery are collectively merging and engaging in the space as an art object.[13]


In this performance piece the artist, dressed in a white tuxedo jacket, black pants and bright green shoes, gave a sermon while accompanied by a 30-person gospel choir. Pendleton’s homily, titled "a dream of an uncommon language," featured language borrowed from poets such as John Ashbery, Charles Bernstein and Donald Hall,[6] as well as "politico-speak and strident gay protest".[14] Also included in the revival were "testimonials" from contemporary artist Liam Gillick and poet Jena Osman.[6][8]

Writing of the performance The New York Times art critic Roslyn Sulcas described Mr. Pendleton as "the most charismatic performer I’ve seen on stage for a long time." The piece was part of Performa Biennial 07 and was performed at Stephan Weiss studio.[14]

Black Dada[edit]

"Black Dada" is a concept that informs much of the artist’s work.[6] There is no set definition[6] but the artist has described the idea as “a way to talk about the future while talking about the past. It is our present moment."[15] Characteristically the Black Dada paintings contain a partial view of Sol LeWitt’s cube sculptures, accompanied by one or more letters derived from the phrase, "Black Dada." The name comes from the 1964 poem "Black Dada Nihilismus" by Amiri Baraka.[6] Pendleton states that the two words merge two ideas: “Dada, meaning ‘yes, yes’ and black as an open-ended signifier.”[8]

In 2011 Pendleton’s Black Dada (LK/LC/AA) was acquired by The Museum of Modern Art. It was the first of his work to enter MoMa’s collection.[16]

System of Display[edit]

System of Display is a series of works involving mirrors, letters and silkscreened images appropriated from art publications, among other sources.[6][8] The images include photographs of the Fridericianum during the 1955 Documenta[17] and of a couple dancing in the street during a celebration of independence in Congo, as well as stills of Anna Karina from Jean-Luc Godard’s film Made in U.S.A.[6] Pendleton has said, "I am working to establish a system of display, of organization. I want to create a situation where we're inclined to rethink notions of the past and the future, as well as our ability to understand them enough to make reductive statements."[2]


The video installation BAND tracks the process of the band Deerhoof as they develop and record a new song, I Did Crimes for You.[15] The video is loosely based on Godard’s film Sympathy for the Devil, which features The Rolling Stones recording their song of the same name.[8] In BAND, footage of Deerhoof rehearsing is edited to include fragments from a 1971 documentary, Teddy, about a young member of the Black Panther Party in Los Angeles. The song’s lyrics consist of confrontational rhetoric characteristic of the late 1960s, while the voiceover from the documentary speaks of the prospects of change and the efficacy of such violence.[17] Speaking of the video’s relationship to Godard’s film, Pendleton said “ it is not something that exists in its shadow, but rather in contrast to it.”[8]

The Abolition of Alienated Labor[edit]

In 2010 Pendleton was featured in MoMA PS1’s Greater New York exhibition. His installation, The Abolition of Alienated Labor, included drawings and images appropriated from the 1950s African independence movement and from a 1960s Godard film, silk-screened onto large mirrors.[15] The title of the work comes from a 1963 Situationist work in which Guy Debord painted that phrase over an industrially produced painting by Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio.[15] Speaking of the installation the artist said, “The works are framed within the context of the ethos of experimental gestures, the potential of a political framework — or rather, of a politicized framework.”[15]

Selected Public Collections[18][edit]

Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego

The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Studio Museum in Harlem, New York

Tate, London

University of Chicago, Illinois


Suzanne Hudson, Adam Pendleton: I’ll be Your, Pace London, 2012. ISBN 9781909406001


  1. ^ a b "Adam Pendleton," Retrieved April 8, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Jess Wilcox, " Black Dada: A Conversation with Adam Pendleton," Art in America, March 2, 2009.
  3. ^ "30 under 30: Art & Style; Adam Pendleton, Artist, 28," Forbes Magazine. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  4. ^ Susan Adams, " 30 Under 30: Art & Design," Forbes Magazine, December 19, 2011.
  5. ^ Susan Adams, " 30 Under 30: The Bright Young Stars of Art and Style," Forbes Magazine, December 17, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Adam Pendleton Brings Black Dada to MoMA and Pace," GalleristNY, April 6, 2012.
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c d e f Thom Donovan, "Adam Pendleton," Bomb, 114/Winter 2011.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Ken Johnson, "Art in Review; Adam Pendleton," The New York Times, May 20, 2005.
  12. ^ Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, April 1 2016
  13. ^ Adam Pendleton Tackles Race In His Own Way at Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, February 29, 2016 [1]
  14. ^ a b Roslyn Sulcas, "Performa 07: Adam Pendleton, Artists and Statistics," The New York Times, November 4, 2007.
  15. ^ a b c d e Kevin McGarry, " Greater New Yorkers | Adam Pendleton," T (The New York Times Style Magazine), May 27, 2010.
  16. ^ Elizabeth Henderson, "Adam Pendleton and Mark Manders: Looking at Language in Two Recent Acquisitions,", March 10, 2011.
  17. ^ a b Tom Williams, "Adam Pendleton," Art in America, February 9, 2011.
  18. ^

External links[edit]