The language in Untitled (WE ARE NOT) derives from Adam Pendleton’s “Black Dada” manifesto: “Black Dada: we are not naïve / Black Dada: we are successive / Black Dada: we are not exclusive…” Here Pendleton refers back to Tristan Tzara’s satirical “Manifesto of Monsieur Antipyrine,” delivered at the first public Dada soirée in Zürich in 1916 (“We are not naive / We are successive / We are exclusive”), recasting Tzara's declarations with the insertion of “Black Dada.” Truncated, repeated, and overwritten, “we are not”…“we are not”…“we are not” stutters across the canvas with varying degrees of legibility. The work examines the modes and methods of abstraction by which collective subjectivities may, as the “Black Dada” manifesto puts it, “exploit the logic of identity.”
“‘Black scream / and chant, scream / and dull, un / earthly / hollering’ [LeRoi Jones, The Dead Lecturer, 63–64].
That black scream is one component of Adam Pendleton’s Black Dada archive. He makes the links between that moment and the earlier, historical Dada clear by similarly drawing from those same wartime diaries of Hugo Ball with which [Hal] Foster’s essay [“Dada Mime”] opens and to which it returns again and again, documents of self-degradation and shock experience, the end of civilization and hope for renewal. Those perhaps unlikely conjunctures are the stuff of Black Dada, but so is the logic of the mask, of adaptation and exacerbation, the legacy of [LeRoi] Jones and [Jean] Genet, the strategy of the Black Dada mime.”
T. McDonough, 'BLACK DADA MIME’, in Black Dada Reader, London: Koenig Books, 2017, p. 27
“The surfaces of these paintings are covered in a semi-regular tangle of forms: words, lines, and geometric figures, first painted and then printed. Varying in density, the screen printed and spray-painted compositions contain pieces of mostly indecipherable phrases, written and overwritten. One layer, from a silkscreen containing the word ‘IF’, is repeated across all of the works. Other elements are variable, to different degrees. The palimpsestic canvases follow Pendleton’s long-running series of Black Dada paintings (2008–), in which progressively fewer letters—sometimes as few as a single letter—are arranged across paintings in order to elliptically spell out the phrase (‘BLACK DADA’). In contrast to the radical subtraction of language in the earlier series, language in OK DADA OK BLACK DADA OK has proliferated to the point of illegibility, creating a polyphonic field irreducible to any single or dominant utterance.”
Press release: Adam Pendleton: New Works, Galeria Pedro Cera, Lisbon, 2018
“These works resemble the acetate transparency pages included in early versions of the [Black Dada] Reader and are in fact proportional to the dimensions of a standard printed page. 8 1⁄2- by-11-inch transparencies, photocopied from the artist’s books, drawings, handwriting, and paper collages, are placed on top of one another; they are scanned, processed, and silkscreened onto larger transparencies, then mounted on white board and framed. Though each work is unique, the method is somewhat modular and, like much of Pendleton’s work, involves the recombination of fixed elements in diverse permutations. And, although the Mylar works are the final products at the end of a series of translations—a chain of imaging, editing, layering, and printing processes—they embody a sense of incompleteness and also of promiscuity, pointing toward further processes to come, further layers, further copies. Their transparency resembles that of photographic negatives or slides for an overhead projector. Sealed behind glass, like the masks they reproduce, these images, we imagine, might still be fed back into the machines that produced them, multiplying to exhaustion.”
A. Mapes-Frances, 'Black upon black: Afterlives of the Archive’, in Adam Pendleton: Our Ideas, exh. cat., London: Pace Gallery, 2018, pp. 145-146
“Pendleton builds each canvas in layers drawn, painted, and printed respectively. He first covers the 96-by-69-inch canvases with vertical lines and then spray-paints them in long passes, a take on a traditional painted ground. Next he overlays collages made from cut-up, laser-printed photographs of spray-painted language – the phrase A VICTIM OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY—enlarged and screen-printed onto the canvases. The text is based on Malcom X’s 1964 speech The Ballot or the Bullet.”
S. Hudson, ‘Both Form and Life’, in Adam Pendleton: Our Ideas, exh. cat., London: Pace Gallery, 2018, p. 140
Black Dada Reader, London: Koenig Books, 2017
“The first edition of the Black Dada Reader […] was conceived in lieu of a proposal for a yearlong residency at MoMA in 2011. The idea was to develop a platform at the museum for different conversations around race, gender, and sexuality that shift the institutional language away from the concepts of ‘black,’ ‘female,’ or ‘gay’— subjects that tend to perpetuate essentialism by quota—and toward a conceptual framework that allows identity to emerge as a continuous process. Instead of creating an on-paper definition of what Black Dada is and does, the Reader already performs Black Dada’s very propositions and strategies: its penchant for mixing seemingly incommensurable subjects, experimentation with language, inclusiveness, as well as a socially and politically invested trajectory.
By assembling essays and reference materials from vastly different historical periods, backgrounds, and genres, the Reader creates unexpected juxtapositions out of which new possibilities arise. It is hard to imagine another book that combines a poem by Gertrude Stein with an interview about Jean-Luc Godard, and a text-based drawing by William Pope.L. Yet these have much to say to each other. Like its eponymous European predecessor, Black Dada presents itself as an open-ended signifier. Inherently multidisciplinary and diverse, it incorporates all realms of culture—combining radical positions in visual art, music, design, theory, dance, and literature—as it aims to create new realities."
J. Schlenzka, 'what can black dada do for my institution / do for my institution black dada, / some thoughts’, in Black Dada Reader, London: Koenig Books, 2017, p. 15
Pendleton, 'Black Dada Manifesto’, in Black Dada Reader, London: Koenig Books, 2017, p. 333
“In 2008 I was invited by curator Krist Gruijthuijsen to be a part of a show he curated within Manifesta 7 called it’s a matter of fact and I ended up writing a Black Dada manifesto. Basically it was a system for collecting sentences. So the first line of my text is the title of his exhibition it’s a matter of fact, and then it collects. So it goes from one, two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four, et cetera, accumulating a repeating series of sentences that are also attracting new language to them as it evolves. In effect it is the theoretical underpinning of the Black Dada project, it deliberately aligns aesthetic/political distinctions, creating a chronology-based affinity between conceptual art and political actions in the ’60s, for example, which had this conceptual and performative intelligence.”
A. Pendleton, ‘Adam Pendleton with Allie Biswas’, in The Brooklyn Rail, 2016
“Black Dada is neither an -ism nor a situation. It is pieced together like a tapestry, stitched in the margins of expressed language and compiled through lived relations. It possesses, as does all great writing, the uneven consistency of language on the run.”
M. Beasley, ‘Motherfist and her five glossaries: Notes towards the insertion of Black Dada’, in Adam Pendleton: ELTDK, exh. cat., Berlin: Haunch of Venison, 2009
“Two birthdates, 1934 and 1984, mark the beginning of Adam Pendleton’s video Just Back from Los Angeles: A Portrait of Yvonne Rainer (2016–17). Over a meal at Ridgeway Diner—one of Yvonne Rainer’s favorite spots in New York City—the two artists meet and get to know one another in earnest for the very first time.
‘I’m going to be eighty-two in two weeks,’ Rainer tells Pendleton. ‘How old are you?’
‘I am…thirty-two. So I’m fifty...fifty years younger than you. That’s a...that’s a lot,’ Pendleton acknowledges.
‘Oh, it sure is,’ confirms Rainer.
The timespan they draw is a deceptively simple glimpse into the nature of their meeting, an exchange across multiple lines of difference: generational, sexual, racial, and artistic. What unfolds is a poignant portrayal that combines unscripted and scripted dialogue, scenes of the pair talking and moving together, and historical footage of Rainer’s landmark dance Trio A. The video portrait’s evocative juxtapositions transform an ordinary encounter into a powerful meditation on the two artists’ shared questions of poetics and politics.”
Exhibition brochure: List Projects: Adam Pendleton, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA, 2018
“Here [in Black lives matter #2], the popular slogan that became the name of a mass movement against the police killing of unarmed citizens is super-imposed against the image of an African sculpture. Or at least, it appears to be an African sculpture. We can’t say for sure. It might, for example, be a European Modernist reproduction of an African sculpture. The question of origins can’t be avoided because – and this is the point – exhaustively figurative or expressive forms of representation commit us to a rubric of authenticity. And this is literally in contrast, within the frame of Pendleton’s image, to the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ itself.”
S. Squibb, ‘The Method of Freedom: Abstraction in the Work of Adam Pendleton’, in Becoming Imperceptible, exh. cat., Los Angeles/New Orleans: Siglio and Contemporary Art Centre, 2016, p. 21
“I was asked by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to do a project for their atrium; since SFMOMA is just across the way from Oakland, where it all started for the Black Panthers, I came up with the idea to make a piece with David Hilliard.
In My Education, when David is not pointing out a site, like where the first Panther office was or where the breakfast program started, I’m asking him questions about himself and his relationship to the Panthers, though you don’t hear my voice. My point of departure was to look at David as an individual now, to see how a very specific history shaped or did not shape the man he is today.
Ultimately, what a successful portrait does is that it presents the impossibility of summarizing who someone is — how any kind of representation is ultimately a conversation with some form of abstraction. Having spent several hours with David and three years working on this piece, I don’t have a view of who he is per se. The piece is about listening, and language and image, so hopefully it moves in many directions at once, and doesn’t present a simplistic view of who David Hilliard is.
The way the piece is edited, you even get multiple views of what he’s talking about, which doesn’t always line up with what you’re looking at. I question the idea of historical fact and representing the truth of anything. Things change, both in terms of personal memory but also our collective consciousness. David became a conceptual vehicle to explore those ideas.”
A. Pendleton, ‘Verbatim: Adam Pendleton’, in Art in America, 2014
“These letters don’t form words, but are anagrammatic — without beginning or end. I think they are meant to produce a ‘vocabulary’ or lexicon in addition to the images, so that one is seeing one’s self in a mirror, seeing an image from history (or with a feeling of history), and reading (or tempted to produce lexical meaning) in tandem (or, at times, simultaneously). As the name System of Display suggests, we are in the midst of a kind of archival or museum machine. What would it mean for me (the viewing-sensing subject) to actively produce history (or myself in relation to historical indices), confronted by these objects? What would it mean to grasp in my consciousness an (iconic) image of the past and the present at once? What future might appear out of this act of perception?”
T. Donovan, 'A grave in exchange for the commons: Fred Moten and the resistance of the object’, Jacket2, April 6, 2011
"Pendleton’s images are maps of his reading. The visuals he uses are photocopied from books and articles, then cropped and broken down by further copying so that the artifacts from the replication process begin to gather weight. The content of the image never disappears; rather it is continually supplemented—by dithering effects and halftone patterns, by framing, by mirrors, by language, and by relation to other pieces in the space. The image is just the beginning. How that image changes in the context of display is at the core of what’s at stake in the work."
J. Osman, ‘Torrent,’ in Adam Pendleton: ELTDK, exh. cat., Berlin: Haunch of Venison, 2009
“The Black Dada paintings, begun in 2008, take their name from a quotation from the 1964 poem by LeRoi Jones (later identified as Amiri Baraka) “Black Dada Nihilismus”– but never in its entirety. That is, in Pendleton’s compositions, we are only every granted fragments of language, remaindered letters toward an impossible whole. And in the paintings, the individual letters figure alongside cropped, photographic details from a canonical work—Sol LeWitt’s Variations of Incomplete Open Cubes (1974)—which takes potentiality and its counterpoint, fragmentation, as its subject as much as its form.”
A. Andersson, ‘The Disobedient Copyist: Adam Pendleton’s Language of Resistance’, in Becoming Imperceptible, exh. cat. Los Angeles/New Orleans: Siglio and Contemporary Art Centre, 2016, p. 6