David Adjaye and Adam Pendleton

Pace Gallery, Hong Kong, China
18 May 2021 - 30 Jun 2021

David Adjaye, Khufu (detail), 2021 © David Adjaye

David Adjaye, Khufu (detail), 2021 © David Adjaye

David Adjaye, Ghanaian-British artist and world-leading architect and American artist Adam Pendleton are exhibiting together at Pace Gallery. The exhibition features a new body of paintings entitled Untitled (WE ARE NOT), presented in visual and spatial dialogue with a set of sculptural works by Adjaye. Viewed in concert, the works articulate a shared visual lexicon that explores questions of language, identity, and monumentality.

Through a sustained and multifaceted engagement with painting, Adam Pendleton’s work explores the tensions between language, representation, and abstraction. The paintings enunciate three simple words, “we,” “are,” and “not,” which nevertheless form a complex matrix of meanings, constructing what Pendleton refers to as a series of “incomplete postulates.”

He explains that the paintings, “like the voices of a multitude, do not accede to an identity. In their combinatorial repetition, they instead unfold a multiplicity: not-beings, not-nots, and being-nots.” Made up of multiple layers of spray paint, sharply defined brush marks, collage, and photographs, the Untitled (WE ARE NOT) paintings reveal a process of metamorphosis that refuses to speak itself into a final form, preferring to remain in a state of indeterminacy. As if capturing the process of predication, Pendleton’s paintings generate open questions: Who or what is this we? Who or what is this not-we? What are we not? Are we whatnot? Who or what is not?

Originating from Pendleton’s seminal Black Dada text of 2008, the phrase “WE ARE NOT” is broken down and merged to form all-over compositions. Pendleton’s reiteration and reconfiguration of his own past language extends the dynamics of his ongoing Black Dada project, a conceptual framework through which the artist explores ideas about the future through the evocation of the past, with an emphasis on the relationship between blackness and the avant-garde. The Untitled (WE ARE NOT) paintings similarly address questions of historical and collective definition, alluding obliquely to the rhetoric of contemporary identity politics. Pendleton uses the repetition of such words to produce a kind of combinatorial patterning; what starts as “WE ARE NOT” quickly dissolves into “NOT NOT WE” and “NOT ARE WE.” These permutations, hovering on the edge of signification and meaninglessness, encode the often ambiguous, arbitrary, and fictitious logics at the heart of identity, which is often taken as self-evident.

Adjaye’s modular geometric sculptures take the form of pyramids, yet are composed of individual elements with the capacity to be reconfigured in a variety of orientations. In this way, they echo the combinatorial possibilities of language explored in Pendleton’s paintings. Working in marble—which is also among the most frequently used materials in the history of architecture—has enabled Adjaye to distill broader ideas about materiality and form into objects that trouble the boundaries between art and architecture, while evoking the history of minimal sculpture.

Since the beginning of his career, Adjaye’s architectural practice has been informed by his interest in contemporary art. Adjaye has collaborated with visual artists in the past, including Chris Ofili with whom he created The Upper Room, a room size installation permanently on view at Tate Britain as well as Kapwani Kiwanga, with whom he created Sankofa Pavilion, a glass structure used as a space for conversation, shown as part of Whitechapel Gallery’s Is This Tomorrow? exhibition in 2019.

Adam Pendleton (b. 1984, Richmond, Virginia), lives and works in New York. Pendleton’s recent solo exhibitions include: Le Consortium, Dijon (2020); Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston (2020); MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts (2018); Baltimore Museum of Art (2017); KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2017); Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, United Kingdom (2017); Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (2017); Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (2016); and Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans (2016). Pendleton’s work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and Tate, London, among many other institutions.

Sir David Adjaye OBE is a Ghanaian-British architect who has received international acclaim for his impact on the field. In 2000, he founded Adjaye Associates, which today operates globally, with studios in Accra, London, and New York and projects spanning across the globe. Adjaye’s largest project to date, The National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, DC opened on the National Mall in Washington DC in 2016 and was named Cultural Event of the Year by The New York Times. In 2017, Adjaye was recognized as one of the 100 most influential people of the year by TIME Magazine.




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