Sunday, April 24, 2016

Adam Pendleton: Becoming Imperceptible

Early on, there were two great American global cities that were multi-ethnic from the start. New York and New Orleans both evolved from ever-shifting demographics, but New York became a smörgåsbord of distinct competing cultures while New Orleans simmered into a riotously diverse gumbo that over time became cohesively and indelibly Creole. That history may explain how New York-based Adam Pendleton's Becoming Imperceptible expo could cover almost exactly the same black history as Nola-based Brandan Odums' Studio BE (reviewed below), yet look so totally different. Both are millennial art stars, but Odums' pop-graffiti imagery is like a visual Second Line where visceral gravitas mingles with transcendent exuberance, while Pendleton merges Eurocentric ingredients like Dadaism and philosopher Gilles Deleuze (the most consequential postmodern French theorist and inspiration for the title), with influences like late New York poet Leroi Jones' black identity polemics into a pristine stylistic extravaganza that mutely subsumes the gravitas and exuberance of both Odums and Jones.

His seamless first-floor collage panels recall spray paint graffiti but are actually cleverly printed with big halftone dots in graphical patterns punctuated with mirrored works based on black history, so if you look into a picture of a vintage African Magicienne, top, you may see your own reflection. A text painting of some quotes from an interview with French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, above, reads like a Zen-Dada word salad, or redacted cultural history run through a food chopper. Hyper-esoteric insider references convulse into a deadpan crescendo upstairs with some opaque black and white sculptural glyphs titled Code Poems as well as a cryptic Godard-inspired video loop, Satomi (above left)—terse examples of zombie formalism that double as biting parodies of postmodernism. On the third floor, a moving multimedia account of the 1968 Oakland, California, Black Panther police shoot-out, below, brings us back down to earth. Much of this reflects Pendleton's “Black Dada” philosophy and might be more transgressive if not so oddly affectless. Curated by Andrea Andersson, Imperceptible is the largest solo exhibition to date by New York's most successful 31 year old black artist. ~Bookhardt / Becoming Imperceptible: Recent Multimedia Works by Adam Pendleton, Through June 16, Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528.3805.