Adam Pendleton and David Adjaye have united for the first time for a two-person exhibition, on display at Hong Kong’s Pace gallery. New paintings from Pendleton will join Adjaye’s marble sculptures in exploring a shared preoccupation with identity: the works, playing with our perceptions, offer a subversive hint that everything isn’t as it first appears.

Pendleton’s new painting, Untitled (WE ARE NOT), considers the tension between language and representation with a juxtaposition of textures. A clash of layers of spray paint, pronounced brush marks, collages and photographs express an unease, resulting in a seemingly uncompleted work that resists a neat finish. Ends left untied emphasise the pressing need for resolution.

black and white picture of spray painting words
Adam Pendleton, studio image © Adam Pendleton. Photography by Tete-a-Tete Productions. Courtesy Pace Gallery 
Black slab of marble on the floor in a gallery
Installation view of ‘David Adjaye Adam Pendleton’, 12/F, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong, 18 May-30June, 2021. Photography courtesy of Pace Gallery

In the paintings, the words ‘We’, ‘Are’ and ‘Not’ are inscribed repeatedly in a confusion of configurations that raises infinite questions: Who are we not? Who is the not-we? What is not? The words, in refusing to remain in a discernible pattern, resist easy interpretation. The paintings, building on the foundation of Pendleton’s 2008 work Black Dada, which marked the beginning of his exploration into the fragmentation of language, show just how easy it can be to read multiple truths from language – showing, ultimately, the fiction of fundamental truth.

For Adjaye, it is the layering intrinsic to the formation of the marble process that reflects the gravitas of a cultural history. The compression of the marble, which leaves thick, letter-like veins on the surface, communicates in a different way; the ancient Egyptian forms his pyramid sculptures take links back to the innovation of the ancient African world. The independent forms, despite appearing immovable in their solidity, can be rearranged in a multitude of ways in an echo of the ambiguity Pendleton demonstrates with language.

The exhibition is the natural culmination of a relationship that began in 2016 with an exhibition Pendleton installed at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, a building designed by Adjaye. A shared concern with the politics of space and a passion for art and architecture naturally culminated in an exhibition expressing their mutual interests. §

Black and white picture of someone spray painting on a picture
Adam Pendleton, studio image © Adam Pendleton. Photography by Tete-a-Tete Productions. Courtesy Pace Gallery 
Black and white inage of a machine cutting marble

David Adjaye, studio image © David Adjaye. Photography by Tete-a-Tete Productions. Courtesy Pace Gallery

Black and white image of. gallery with marble on the floor and a graffiti image

Installation view of ‘David Adjaye Adam Pendleton’, 12/F, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong, 18 May-30 June, 2021. Photography courtesy of Pace Gallery