Points of view

Adam Pendleton: the next ‘big thing’ or ‘déjà-vu?

20.12.2018 | By PAOLO BOCCHI

“They all say great things about him. He is Adam Pendleton, a 34-year-old artist from Virginia, who has just been very successful in London with his exhibition Our Ideas. His works revolve around subjects such as lettering, letters, texts, languages, meanings, visuals. If you think about it, in Italy, someone has already worked, and still works, on these topics. With results that…”

Wallpaper, the prestigious magazine, baptizes him, in the October 2018 issue, as the new “enfant terrible” of contemporary art. And depicts him as “art’s new ideas man”.
He is Adam Pendleton, he was born in Richmond, Virginia, USA, in 1984, and is therefore 34 years old in this 2018 that is about to end. History has it that it all began when the artist Sol LeWitt decided to buy one of his works, thus becoming his first collector, and opening the way to success, in the difficult and intricate world of art, to an 18- year-old Adam Pendleton. History also has it that Adam Pendleton was the youngest artist to be contracted by Pace Gallery, since the golden days of the 70s.

 

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His recent exhibition at the Pace in London, entitled “Our Ideas”, was an undisputed success, for critics and audiences.
Everyone was enthusiastic.
But is this Adam Pendleton really the “next big thing” of contemporary art?
Or is he just another product of a market that lives on ready-made proposals already seen over and over?
Critics say that Pendleton’s work “is a skillful blend of lettering, texts, languages, visuals” that becomes, on canvas, the visually powerful expression of “a simultaneously explicit yet abstract message”.

 

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As usual, then, the thought fathers who are behind Pendleton’s work put themselves out (as they have done for too long now):
Martin Luther King and Malcom X. And here the feeling of “déjà vu” begins to be felt very strongly. A feeling that, looking at his works, can only become more acrid, thinking back, quite simply, to that Jean Michel Basquiat who, to put the accent and the attention on the texts that he inserted in his paintings, used, in a very clever and smart way, underlining and deletions to put the spotlight on the words he most wanted to impress the public with. But examples of works that use text, in a superfine way, are endless, even, and above all, in Italy. That’s why Adam Pendleton is not convincing, on the contrary.
Filippo Marinetti (1876-1944), in his works that mark and delineate futurism, blends the onomatopoeic sound of words with a free mesh design, presenting magic that resonates in the mind of the observer… Zang Tumb Tumb!

 

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Emilio Isgrò (1937), decides to delete some lines from some of the texts of some books, providing the reader-public, new visions and new angles of the same letters-words-sentences, and at the same time blending a philosophical artistic experience, made of a never seen before black&white.
Giuseppe Capogrossi (1900-1970), uses a single graphic sign, which derives from the union of a Chinese and an Italian type, to elaborate complex aristocratic unions on canvas, which play on the absence, on the presence, and on the fusion of a strong and recognizable style.
Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994), decides to insert the language, in color or black&white, in pre-established squares, thus giving life to rigid geometric poems, modularly boxed yet full of fantastic expressive freedom.

 

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Luca Barcellona (Milan, 1978), who with his “calligraphy” combined with the expressive language of street “writers”, successfully blends the discipline of the gesture, which brings with it something oriental, with the rebellious thought of juvenile expression and slang; everything is wonderfully expressed in a video in which Luca Barcellona silently “talks” with karate master Dario Marchini.

Finally, to close, leaving the door open for discussion, here is Ivan Tresoldi (Milan, 1981), who with his metropolitan poems painted in red and black on the walls of Milan, provokes urban reactions using abandoned spaces to give moments of deep reflection to an always too fast paced Milan.
Those mentioned are just a few examples.
That’s why, after all, this Adam Pendleton who uses lettering and titles it Our Ideas, triumphs in American and English territories,
but he cannot convince the experienced Italic soil of art.