mumok , Vienna, Austria
31 Mar 2023 - 03 Sep 2023
With Blackness, White, and Light mumok presents New York artist Adam Pendleton’s first comprehensive solo exhibition in Europe. Pendleton’s painting is a continuous index in which gestures are recorded, transposed, and overwritten.
Since 2008 he has articulated much of his work through the idea of Black Dada, an ever-evolving inquiry into the relationship between Blackness, abstraction, and the avant-garde. In his paintings, drawings, and other works, a visual philosophy of incomplete postulates emerges, flattening the distinctions between legibility and abstraction, past and present, familiar and strange.
The exhibition begins on the ground floor with a group of Pendleton’s Black Dada paintings. These diptychs are compositions of painterly marks that document the evolving nature of an artist’s work. Each is completed with one or more typographic letters from the phrase Black Dada, establishing a polyrhythmic space with its two modes of inscription: digital typesetting and painterly gesture. Accompanying these paintings is a group of ceramic Code Poem sculptures, arrangements of geometric symbols that the poet Hannah Weiner derived from Morse code in her 1982 book of the same name.
On the second floor, three triangular pavilions in the main gallery serve a dual function. Their exterior walls support Pendleton’s drawings and paintings while their interiors serve as viewing rooms for his video works, including three of his film portraits: Ishmael in the Garden: A Portrait of Ishmael Houston-Jones (2018), So We Moved: A Portrait of Jack Halberstam (2021), and Ruby Nell Sales (2020–22). Projected in adjacent galleries are What Is Your Name? Kyle Abraham, A Portrait (2018–19) and a new video, Toy Soldier (Notes on Robert E. Lee, Richmond, Virginia/Strobe) (2021–22).
Pendleton developed the pavilions and the angular sightlines in the main gallery in relation to the geometric formal elements in his paintings. The Untitled (Days) paintings integrate simple shapes and visual documentation of his daily studio practice—sprays, splatters, and drips of paint—building them up into dense, all-over compositions. In the vast space of his Untitled (WE ARE NOT) paintings—each nearly six meters wide—vibrational fields of text and gesture immerse the viewer in waves of collective enunciation.
For the large Mylar grids on the surrounding walls, painted marks are printed on transparent film. As Pendleton has said, “The gridded Mylar works are containers for different marks, gestures, and departures: visual departures, textual departures, incomplete utterances, visual and otherwise.” In a second gallery on the same floor, the reflective System of Display, a body of work he began in 2008, combines typography and painterly incident with meticulous archival specificity while remaining speculative and open-ended.