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Howardena Pindell, A Renewed Language begins with abstract paintings and works on paper from the 1970s which map the development of her distinctive, process-driven abstraction. Embellishing the language of minimalism – of circles, grids, tallies and repetition – in a visibly laborious process of hole-punching, spraying, cutting, sewing, and numbering, Pindell creates works with complex and sumptuous material surfaces.

In the 1980s, this abstract language shifts into a different gear, with works taking on a more overtly political tenor. Often collaging text into her surfaces, Pindell creates art that deals with issues including enslavement, violence against indigenous populations, police brutality, the AIDS crisis and climate change. Alongside the paintings and works on paper, the exhibition includes two videos that frame a long career – Free, White and 21 (1980) and Rope/Fire/Water (2020). These works tackle the pervasiveness of racial inequality, drawing on Pindell’s own experiences and also on her collation of historical data relating to segregation, discrimination and race-based violence in America.  

The exhibition presents brand new works from her 2022 New York solo exhibition which shows Pindell circling back to some of her concerns and methods of the early 1970s and 80s. Returning to her method of painting using a stencil, she has produced fresh new work that quotes from work made half a century ago. With the inventiveness of her material processes, the beauty of her abstraction and the acuity of her political voice, Pindell makes work that is variously balm and clarion call in a world that needs both. 

About the artist

Howardena Pindell, born in Philadelphia in 1943, began her career in the 1960s. Having studied art at Boston and Yale Universities she became an Exhibition Assistant at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1967, rising to Associate Curator and serving on the Byers Committee to investigate racial exclusion in museum acquisitions and exhibitions. She first exhibited her art in 1971, and was a founding member of A.I.R (Artists in Residence), the first women’s cooperative gallery in New York City.   

Resigning from MoMA in 1979, she became a professor in the Art Department at Stony Brook University, where she still teaches today. She rose to prominence throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, and had a major solo exhibition at the Studio Museum, Harlem in 1986. In 1992, Howardena Pindell: A Retrospective, her first solo touring exhibition, brought her art and writing together and in 1997, she published The Heart of the Question, an anthology of her written works. She was included in WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2007; in We Wanted A Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 at the Brooklyn Museum, New York and Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power at Tate both in 2017; and The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presented her first major US survey exhibition, Howardena Pindell: What Remains to be Seen in 2018. In 2020, an exhibition of new work at The Shed, New York showed recent work against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement and growing international outrage at anti-Black state violence in the US and elsewhere, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.