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“What is your name?” “Where are you from?” “How did you end up here?” “Can you feel it?” “Does it hurt?” With these and other questions, the American artist Adam Pendleton’s solo exhibition at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum sets up an elaborate call-and-response network that articulates a sense of history as fragmented poetics. The exhibition will showcase a polyvocal assemblage of new and recent paintings, drawings, and video portraits that together reveal Pendleton’s interest in creating a conversation between mediums, as well as his belief in abstraction’s capacity to destabilize and disrupt.

Pendleton’s work is driven by his evolving concept of Black Dada, which, in 2008, he described as a “way to talk about the future while talking about the past; it is our present moment.” The term is borrowed, in part, from “Black Dada Nihilismus,” a 1964 poem by Amiri Baraka (formerly known as LeRoi Jones, 1934–2014), and it reflects the artist’s foundational project of “looking back at multiple things at once.” Premised on an approach that is asyntactic and combinatorial, his paintings and other works address the codes of representation and abstraction, the visual and literary uses of language, and the aesthetics of Blackness as an open-ended signifier. 

A fully illustrated catalog will accompany the exhibition. Pendleton’s most ambitious to date, the book features essays by exhibition curator Meredith Malone and senior scholars Hal Foster and Joshua Chambers-Letson; a conversation between Pendleton and the critic and theorist Isabelle Graw on abstraction in relation to historical and contemporary painting; and full transcripts of two of the artist’s most recent film portraits, juxtaposed with more than 200 stills from each. The catalog will be published by the Museum and distributed nationally and internationally by the University of Chicago Press.

Read the press release

View the video from HEC-TV

Read a review from the St. Louis Riverfront Times


This exhibition was 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.

It is curated by Meredith Malone, curator at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.