Adam Pendleton and David Adjaye talk about the freedom and abstraction in their work

The artist and architect discuss politics and mark-making in a new video interview
David Adjaye and Adam Pendleton in their new video interview
David Adjaye and Adam Pendleton in their new video interview

Adam Pendleton can’t remember a time he wasn’t aware of David Adjaye’s work. In a new video interview, posted to coincide with the opening of the pair’s joint exhibition at Pace in Hong Kong, Pendleton explains that he lives in the Fort Greene neighbourhood of Brooklyn, and would walk by the house Adjaye created for the artist Lorna Simpson more or less every day.

The bold, linear buildings of Adjaye might not seem to have a great deal in common with the near-instructable graffiti-like paintings Pendleton has created, but, in the interview, the pair both appreciate the way abstract art can bring us together.


Adam Pendleton in the new video interview
Adam Pendleton in the new video interview

The Pace exhibition brings together Pendleton’s WE ARE NOT paintings with a series of modular, pyramid-like sculptures from Adjaye, fashioned from marble, which can be taken apart and reformed.

In this interview, Adjaye likens the veins in his stone with the spray can strokes on Pendleton’s canvas. Both aren’t really figurative, and so bring us together, partly because they’re open to interpretation.

“If you look at the history of abstraction,” says Adjaye, “it becomes the device that is able to bring the many into a kind of singular idea. And I think that that invention, for me, that happened in Africa,” the British Ghanaian architect goes on. “It is misunderstood profoundly, misnamed primitivist and all this kind of nonsense, but actually was the beginning of a kind of code of dealing with diversity and dealing with multiplicity.”


David Adjaye in the new video interview
David Adjaye in the new video interview

This is why, in Adjaye’s view, abstraction, despite being an incredibly old form, is perfect for the 21st century. Pendleton agrees. “I am, I would even say, we are, fighting for the right to exist in and through abstraction,” he says. “And I always think that that’s actually an ethical imperative. That’s certainly what I’m fighting for, and if there is a kind of politics to my work that would be one of the main thrusts of it. It’s a notion of freedom.”


“Which is the most profound thing there is,” Adjaye concurs, “the contested space.” You can watch the full interview here, find out more about the show here, order a copy of Adam Pendleton’s monograph here, and read Adjaye’s foreword in our contemporary memorial book, In Memory Of, by ordering it here.


Adam Pendleton



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