Adam Pendleton: To Divide By

Adam Pendleton: To Divide By

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis

September 22, 2023
Adam Pendleton
To Divide By
September 22, 2023–January 15, 2024
Q&A with Adam Pendleton: September 22, 5:30pm
Opening reception: September 22, 6:30pm
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis
1 Brookings Dr
St. Louis, MO 63130
Hours: Wednesday–Monday 11am–5pm

T +1 314 935 4523
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The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis presents Adam Pendleton: To Divide By, a major solo exhibition that spans the past five years of the renowned artist’s work, with a marked emphasis on abstract composition. Encompassing all of the Museum’s special exhibition galleries, To Divide By includes new paintings, drawings, and ceramics, as well as two recent film portraits. The exhibition will be on view at the Kemper Art Museum from September 22, 2023, through January 15, 2024.

For Pendleton, abstraction is a means of representation, a logic, and a space for theoretical and visual experimentation. “By working in and through abstraction,” noted Meredith Malone, curator at the Kemper Art Museum, who organized To Divide By in collaboration with the artist, “Pendleton calls for a more capacious, chaotic, and fluid space, one capable of producing radically new expectations and outcomes, not only for himself but also for the viewer.”

Since 2008 Pendleton has approached much of his work through the framework of Black Dada, an evolving inquiry into the relationships between Blackness, abstraction, and the legacy of the avant-garde in the present day. In addition to visual art, he has published three anthologies of historical texts by artists, writers, and theorists, beginning with his Black Dada Reader (2017). Each anthology is a virtual conversation, spanning decades and disciplines, that offers a critical tool kit while laying the conceptual foundation for Pendleton’s work.

Black Dada’s ethic of intellectual exchange is reflected in a pair of films that anchor the exhibition. Ruby Nell Sales (2020–22) engages the public theologian and civil rights activists, while What Is Your Name? Kyle Abraham, A Portrait (2018–19) focuses on the acclaimed choreographer and dancer. The latter film is projected inside a massive vertical screening room located in the center of one of the Museum’s galleries. Painted matte black inside and out, this minimalist structure stands in contrast to the white-cube setting of the museum. The stark coincidence of black and white is one of the recurring features of Pendleton’s practice.

In another gallery Pendleton’s paintings and drawings line the walls, including four recent canvases from his body of work Untitled (2019–ongoing). Each of these monumental paintings is composed of words, drips, sprays, and splatters, blurring the line between language and abstraction as well as between disciplines of artistic practice, including writing, drawing, painting, and photography. Their accumulated gestures and partial declarations envelop the viewer while resisting stable interpretation. In a new body of work, Untitled (Days) (2021–ongoing), Pendleton incorporated residual marks from sheets of paper pinned to his studio walls, along with stenciled shapes and occasional fragments of spray-painted letters and words, creating an intimate index of his painting process. Also on view are five Black Dada drawings (2010–ongoing), which recombine similar visual elements with shocks of saturated color.

Rounding out the exhibition are three bodies of smaller-scaled works: the artist’s System of Display compositions on mirror and Plexiglas (2008–ongoing); a new group of drawings on paper, Untitled (days for drawing) (2022–ongoing); and a group of untitled ceramic paintings. Arrayed in the Museum’s atrium, these works present a multimodal approach to abstraction. With a shared lexicon of geometric shapes expressed through different articulations—silk-screened ink on mirror, oil and spray paint on paper, and glaze on ceramic—these works encapsulate the exhibition’s polyvocal logic.

A fully illustrated catalog, Pendleton’s most ambitious to date, will accompany the exhibition. It features essays by Malone and scholars Hal Foster and Joshua Chambers-Letson; a conversation between Pendleton and critic Isabelle Graw; and, presented for the first time, complete transcripts of the two film portraits.

Exhibition support
Adam Pendleton: To Divide By is made possible by the leadership support of the William T. Kemper Foundation. Major support is provided by Sotheby’s. All exhibitions at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum are supported by members of the Director’s Circle, with major annual support provided by Emily and Teddy Greenspan and additional generous annual support from Michael Forman and Jennifer Rice, Julie Kemper Foyer, Joanne Gold and Andrew Stern, Ron and Pamela Mass, and Kim and Bruce Olson. Further support is provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Hortense Lewin Art Fund; the Ken and Nancy Kranzberg Fund; and members of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

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Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis
September 22, 2023

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