Curated by Dr. Andrea Andersson, Adam Pendleton: Becoming Imperceptible is the most extensive museum presentation of the artist’s work to date—a significant triumph for a cultural institution located in New Orleans, one of the most racially and politically fraught cities in the southern United States. While the exhibition’s rich display resonates with the variety of material and conceptual strategies at work in Pendleton’s oeuvre, it is the artist’s subversive modes of intervention into historical discourses of vanguard art and politics that lend weight to the complexities of his practice.
The immediate impact of Pendleton’s engagement with the architectural space of the institution invites visitors to understand his engagement with site as a form of occupation. The vertical space of each gallery is dramatically papered with the artist’s stark black-and-white materials—collages, posters, paintings, silkscreens, and acrylic texts swarm the walls, covering the visual field with appropriated and fragmented photographic materials that shout and stutter across three dimensions. Viewers are continuously met with a cacophony of printed matter and textual fragments that tautologically enact Pendleton’s desire for hierarchies of aesthetic representation, production, and historical origins to cross-reference, and subsequently, re-signify.
This mode is powerfully introduced at the start of the exhibition with Yes, But (2008), a wall painting of quotes appropriated from the legendary French New Wave film director Jean-Luc Godard in the 2002 film The Future(s) of Film. Oscillating somewhere between portraiture, poetry, and fragmented non sequitur, Pendleton covers the wall with appropriated text—a gesture that nods to the French auteur’s critique of style and his embrace of the productive possibilities inherent in the accumulation of found content. Pendleton’s destabilization of authorship is a strategy that follows the structures and dynamic history of the avant-garde in the 20th century, and forms the conceptual foundation for a practice that expands from a dissolution between material and process.