Adam Pendleton in conversation with Kevin McGarry, ‘Great New Yorkers: Adam Pendleton’, The New York Times Style Magazine, 27 May 2010, online
Elusive in composition and powerful in magnitude, Black Dada/Column (K), 2015, is a fascinating example of Adam Pendleton’s recent series Black Dada/Column. Executed between 2015 and 2016, this cycle of paintings explores the tension between art and politics in today’s society. Through a continued investigation into the construct of language, which has long been one of the hallmarks of Pendleton’s work, Black Dada/Column seeks to address and unravel the deeply ingrained, political undertones apparent in linguistic structures by deconstructing and decontextualising words into fragments and letters. The large group of paintings in this series are each rendered in black, silkscreen ink on canvas. In spite of their monochromaticity, the paintings glimmer with the nuances of black pigment, exposing the colour as multitoned, complex and variegated. Indeed, large bands of reflective black pigment run vertically down the surface of each work like a meticulously rendered and imposing column, and each has been uniquely inscribed with a single character – in the instance of the present painting, the letter ‘K’. Similarly, under closer inspection, it becomes evident that each work has been composed across two panels which are stacked on top of one another to form a larger whole.
Playing with notions of decipherability, perception and visibility, the present series seeks to challenge constructs of ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ as uncomplicated, uncontested and singular entities. Rather, Pendleton subtly and emblematically presents an almost indiscernibly yet undeniably heterogeneous world, subtle yet distinct; apparent, but only if you are willing to look. As Thom Donovan attests: “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. We discover the protest of the object – works of art and performance resisting their subsumption by common epistemological frameworks and modes of narration posing as truth” (Thom Donovan, ‘Adam Pendleton by Thom Donovan’, Bomb Magazine, 1 January 2011, online).
Black Dada/Column (K) was exhibited in 2016, alongside the other works in the series, in a major travelling solo show which started at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Cleveland, poignantly titled ‘Becoming Imperceptible'. Born in 1984 in Virginia, USA, Pendleton’s practice is driven by an interrogation and attempted deconstruction of history, particularly in relation to marginalised and oppressed groups in society. His work is very much informed by his experiences as an African American, and the major themes of his practice centre around socio-political contexts of America’s Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and, more recently, the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained momentum following the controversial murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
Pendleton has long explored the notion of ‘Black Dada’ as a conceptual theme in his work, which he enigmatically describes as “a way to talk about the future while talking about the past. It is our present moment” (Adam Pendleton in conversation with Kevin McGarry, ‘Great New Yorkers: Adam Pendleton’, The New York Times Style Magazine, 27 May 2010, online). The name is borrowed from a 1964 poem, ‘Black Dada Nihilismus’, by Amiri Baraka, and its visual content alludes to the work of a number of artists including Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, and Barnett Newman. Pendleton has received widespread critical acclaim in recent years, and in 2011, the Museum of Modern Art acquired one of his Black Dada works for their collection. In the present series, the cryptic letters that are embossed onto each canvas are in fact anagrams of the words ‘Black Dada’. In such a way, Pendleton powerfully and evocatively reinforces his underlying message that we must look, simultaneously, to the details and the bigger picture in order to celebrate and gain understanding of our vast and multivalent contemporary world.
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