Adam Pendleton Featured on Cover of NYT Magazine

Friday, Jul 3, 2020
Available In Print Sunday, Jul 5, 2020

A new artwork by Adam Pendleton is featured on the cover of The New York Times Magazine's Independence Day issue, which will run in print this Sunday, July 5.

The piece accompanies the magazine's cover story by Isabel Wilkerson, titled America’s Enduring Caste System, which, together with Pendleton's artwork, confronts readers with a necessary interrogation of the failure of our founding ideals, which promise liberty and equality for all, in the context of an enduring racial hierarchy that has persisted for centuries. Read a statement by the artist below.

By Adam Pendleton

When Gail initially got in touch with me I think the idea was to use an image of an existing work of mine. After I read the excerpt from Isabel Wilkerson’s book I knew I had to make something new; that I had to respond directly to the text. 

I like images that are anachronistic and both specific and unspecific at the same time. Images that slow you down and grab your attention not necessarily because of their visual immediacy, but because of their conceptual and poetic potential. 

How do you illustrate a caste system, and more directly, a racial caste system? After seeing the kinds of images Jake and Gail were considering I started researching images from the Jim Crow south, but with a specific focus on children. How do children cope with the inescapable nature of America’s racial history? The things that are passed down and inherited. I felt as though the child’s perspective would cause the viewer of the cover to feel the violence and pain of America’s caste system more readily and deeply. 

The cover is really a drawing that incorporates a photograph. I am interested in the tension between abstraction and representation, in shifting people’s attention through abstraction. I made a small painting on paper to “support” the image which abstracts and/or blurs the image depending on how you look at it. I knew I wanted to incorporate text from the beginning as I often do in my work: you can read the image or you can read the text, but when the work is most successful you do both, the image and text come in and out of focus seamlessly. I started with a text by Stokely Carmichael, The Pitfalls of Liberalism, but there was a desire on the magazine’s part to use a text by Frederick Douglass that asks “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” I didn’t just want to impose the text on the image so I made a series of marks on the text that make it feel handled, like the residue of time.

Learn more about Pendleton's artwork on The New York Times Magazine's (opens in a new window) website.

Video by HunterGatherer, Courtesy The New York Times Magazine

How do children cope with the inescapable nature of America’s racial history? The things that are passed down and inherited.

Adam Pendleton

  • News — Adam Pendleton Debuts New Cover Artwork in NYT Magazine, Jul 3, 2020