b. 1955, Newark, NJ
Lives and works in Chicago, IL
Pope.L is a visual artist and educator whose multidisciplinary practice uses binaries, contraries and preconceived notions embedded within contemporary culture to create art works in various formats, for example, writing, painting, performance, installation, video and sculpture. Building upon his long history of enacting arduous, provocative, absurdist performances and interventions in public spaces, Pope.L applies some of the same social, formal and performative strategies to his interests in language, system, gender, race and community. The goals for his work are several: joy, money and uncertainty— not necessarily in that order.
Pope.L began his career in the 1970s, creating works that find their foothold in personal travail, reading philosophy, and performance and theatre training with Geoff Hendricks and Mabous Mines. He studied at Pratt Institute and later received his BA from Montclair State College in 1978. He also attended the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art before earning his MFA from Rutgers University in 1981. His first performances occurred on the street, and later at major and historic venues, such as Anthology Film Archives, Franklin Furnace, Just Above Midtown, Museum of Modern Art, New Museum, Performa, The Sculpture Center, and the 2002 Whitney Biennial in New York; MIT and Mobius in Boston; MOCA Los Angeles; Shinjuku Station in Tokyo; Diverse Works in Houston; Cleveland Institute of Art in Ohio; Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead Quays, UK; Prospect.2 in New Orleans; Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and CAM Houston, among others. Major performances include Baile (2016); The Problem (2016); Pull (2013); The Black Factory national tour (2002–2009); The Great White Way (2001–2002); Community Crawls (2000–2005); Eating the Wall Street Journal (2000); Black Domestic aka Roach Motel Black (1994); How Much is that Nigger in the Window (1990-1992); Times Square Crawl (1978); and Thunderbird Immolation (1978).
Recent exhibitions, performances, and projects include Flint Water Project at What Pipeline, Detroit (2017); Whispering Campaign at documenta 14, Athens and Kassel (2017); Claim (Whitney Version) at the 2017 Whitney Biennial (2017); PLAMA (The Spot), a commercial commissioned for On the Tip of the Tongue at Museum of Modern Art Warsaw (2016); Baile at the 32nd Biennal de São Paulo (2016); The Freedom Principle at ICA Philadelphia (2016) and MCA Chicago (2015); The Public Body at Artspace, Sydney (2016); Less than One at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2016); Trinket at The Geffen Contemporary, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2015); Black Pulp! at Yale School of Art, New Haven and IPCNY in New York (2016); Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, CAM Houston, and Studio Museum in New York (2014); Claim at Littman Gallery, Portland State University, Portland, OR (2014); Cage Unrequited at Performa, New York (2013); Forlesen at The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, Chicago (2013); and A Long White Cloud, Te Tuhi, Auckland, New Zealand (2013).
His work has also been the subject of important group and solo shows throughout the span of his almost 50-year career, including Against the Grain: Wood in Contemporary Craft and Design, Museum of Art and Design, New York (2013); superhuman, Central Utah Art Center, Ephraim (2012); Reenactor, Williams Center Gallery at Lafayette College, Easton, PA (2012); The Last Newspaper, New Museum, New York (2010); 30 Seconds Off an Inch, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2009); Corbu Pops, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (2009); Thirty Americans, Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2008); Black Is, Black Ain’t, Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (2008); Drawing, Dreaming, Drowning at Art Institute of Chicago (2008); Art After White People: Time, Trees, and Celluloid . . . at Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA (2007); William Pope.L: The Black Factory and Other Good Works, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2007); 7e Biennale de l’Art Africaine Contemporaine, Dakar, Senegal (2006); Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art since 1970, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2005); The Interventionists: Art in the Social Sphere, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams (2004); The Big Nothing, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (2004); Only Skin Deep, International Center of Photography, New York (2004); William Pope.L: the friendliest Black artist in America at ICA at Maine College of Art, Portland, DoverseWorks Artspace in Houston, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, ME, Artists Space in New York, and Mason Gross Art Galleries at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ (2002-2004); eRacism: Retrospective Exhibition, Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art, Portland (2002); eRacism: White Room, Thread Waxing Space, New York (2000); Eating the Wall Street Journal and Other Current Consumptions, Mobius, Boston (2000); and Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949–1979, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1998).
Pope.L is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the Bucksbaum Award, Joyce Foundation Award, the Tiffany Foundation Award, the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship, the Bellagio Center Residency, Solomon R. Guggenheim Fellowship, Andy Warhol Foundation grant, Creative Capital Foundation grant, Franklin Furnace/Jerome Foundation grant, National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, Artists Space grant, and more.
All images © Pope.L.
Pope.L is included in the group exhibition Other Walks, Other Lines at the San José Museum of Art.
Monica Bonvicini and Pope.L are included in Foundation for Contemporary Art's sixteenth benefit exhibition, "Adam McEwen Selects: Exhibition to Benefit the Foundation for Contemporary Arts," on view November 29 through December 15 at Gladstone Gallery. All proceeds benefit FCA, the non-for-profit organization founded in 1963 by Jasper Johns and John Cage.
Pope.L’s The Escape is an experimental restaging of one of the earliest extant pieces of African American dramatic literature: the 1858 play The Escape; or, A Leap to Freedom by the abolitionist and freed black slave William Wells Brown. Through comedy and critique, Brown’s story charts the push and pull of sex, power, and black agency on a Southern plantation before the Civil War. Pope.L’s rendition deconstructs and reassembles fragments of the original play, agitating and transfiguring the material in the process.
Pope.L is included in Becoming American, an international group exhibition curated by Fionn Meade and sited on the grounds of the American and English camps on San Juan Island, WA, and satellite venues in Seattle.
Jay DeFeo and Pope.L are included in the group exhibition Other Mechanisms, curated by Anthony Huberman, at Secession.
Recently acquired by the museum, Pope.L's Fountain (reparations version) (2016-17) is now on view at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Crossroads, curated by Eric Crosby.
La Panacée presents Pope.L's first major solo exhibition in France, One thing after another, on view in Montpellier through August 26, 2018. The exhibition includes early and recent work, as well as a new site-responsive project, in which Pope.L questions our relationship to and structuring of logic and knowledge within an ongoing irreverence to social construction.
X-TRA presents a reading of "The Cypress," an original short story by Pope.L commissioned for the X-TRA Artist Writes program. A conversation between the artist and curator Hamza Walker will follow. The program is hosted by The Underground Museum in Los Angeles.
Martha Rosler and Pope.L are included in the group exhibition Elements of vogue. A Case Study in Radical Performance at CA2M, Madrid.
Pope.L, along with Jennifer Russell and Rachel G. Wilf, is the newest member of the NYU Institute of Fine Arts' Board of Trustees.
Nancy Graves & Pope.L are included in ICA Boston's exhibition of recent acquisitions.
Pope.L is included in the group exhibtion Citizen Collision – contre l'architecture, curated by Simon Bergala, at École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Lyon.
At the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) Active Ingredients: Prompts, Props, Performance flips the script on the performativity of art objects and the objectness of human performers. This two-part show consists of both a theatrical event and a gallery-based exhibition. Together, the two parts reverse the common distinction of performance as “live” and art objects as “dead.”
Brown People Are the Wrens in the Parking Lot was intitated by artist and University of Chicago Department of VIsual Arts Faculty member Pope.L, and facilitated by faculty, students, staff and community members of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts to reflect on issues of connectedness, home and immigration. The exhibition is on view from November 10, 2017 through January 7, 2018 in the Logan Center Gallery and gathers various ephemera from the campaign as well as serves as a space for open conversation, relaxation and reflection.
Pope.L is included in UB Art Gallery's exhibition, Wanderlust: Action, Traces, and Journeys 1967-2017.
If Not Apollo, the Breeze, curated by Jordan Stein, takes the literary history of the ancient oracle at Delphi as its starting point to explore the irrational, ambiguous, infallible, portentous, performative, hallucinatory, and predictive. Like the oracle itself, the exhibition presents a series of coded messages that address a future that is both hard to discern and right under our feet, like a road. Nine artists and one underground newspaper are included.
Chicago-based artist Pope.L, who has been making public interventionist art for over twenty years, comes to Detroit artist-run gallery What Pipeline with Flint Water, on view September 7 through October 21, 2017. Conceived by Pope.L as one Midwest city helping another, both struck by similar blight, Flint Water is an art installation, a performance and an intervention that calls attention to the water crisis in Flint by bottling Flint tap water and putting it on display in Detroit.
Christopher Y. Lew, Nancy and Fred Poses Associate Curator and co-curator of the 2017 Biennial, joins Pope.L to discuss his practice in context of contemporary art in America.
This survey exhibition, presented in two parts, brings together the artworks of participants within Pratt Institute’s program over the course of the past 125-plus years. Part one, Camerado, this is no book, curated by Jenni Crain, takes its title from Walt Whitman’s poem “So Long!” first published as the final poem in the third release of Leaves of Grass in 1860.
Mitchell-Innes & Nash congratulates Pope.L on his inclusion in documenta 14 for which he conceived a new sound performance piece that takes place partially in the streets. The "Whispering Campaign" will run for the 100 days in both Athens and Kassel. Five performers will wander throughout designated areas of the city either broadcasting a pre-recorded score in English, Greek and German or whispering live their observations as they roam the city.
Performances occur Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in designated areas throughout both cities. In addition to the live performances occurring three days a week, there will be several broadcasts of the pre-recorded text will play at select documenta 14 venues.
Mitchell-Innes & Nash congratulates Pope.L on receiving this year’s Bucksbaum Award.
Established in 2000 by longtime Whitney Museum of American Art trustee Melva Bucksbaum and her family, the Bucksbaum Award recognizes an artist included in the Whitney Biennial “who has previously produced a significant body of work, whose project for the Biennial is itself outstanding, and whose future artistic contribution promises to be lasting.”
BLACK PULP! was first exhibited at the International Print Center New York and will travel to the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan University in Middletown Connecticut.
Pope.L is included in the group exhibition, Invisible Man, at Martos Gallery.
Mitchell-Innes & Nash congratulates Pope.L on his inclusion in documenta 14 for which he conceived a new sound performance piece that takes place partially in the streets. The "Whispering Campaign" will run for the 100 days in both Athens and Kassel. Five performers will wander throughout designated areas of the city either broadcasting a pre-recorded score in English, Greek and German or whispering live their observations as they roam the city.
Performances occur Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in designated areas throughout both cities. In addition to the live performances occurring three days a week, there will be several broadcasts of the pre-recorded text will play at select documenta 14 venues.
Pope.L is included in The Barnes Foundation's exhibition, Person of the Crowd: The Contemporary Art of Flânerie, which features work by more than 50 international artists who have taken to the street to play detective, make fantastic maps, scavenge and shop for new materials, launch guerrilla campaigns, and make provocative spectacles of themselves to speak to issues as diverse as commodity fetishism, gentrification, gender politics, globalization, racism, and homelessness.
PLAMA is a tv spot Pope.L produced in October 2016 in Warsaw. The spot had its premiere in Poland on November 10, on the eve of the Independence Day in Warsaw and two days past the presidential elections in the U.S.
Less Than One is an international, multigenerational group show offering in-depth presentations of work from the 1960s to the present by 16 artists central to the Walker’s collection. Included alongside such signature artworks as Sigmar Polke’s Mrs. Autumn and Her Two Daughters (1991) are major acquisitions on view here for the first time, including Ericka Beckman’s You The Better, Film Installation (1983/2015), Adrian Piper’s The Mythic Being: Sol’s Drawing #1–5 (1974), and Renée Green’s Bequest (1991), among other featured pieces.
Cage Unrequited is a 25-hour marathon reading of experimental composer John Cage’s influential book Silence: Lectures and Writings (1961) organized by visual artist Pope.L. The performance reimagines the book for contemporary audiences by filtering a bit of the past through the voices and attitudes of a diverse community of more than 100 invited readers from Chicago.
The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now links the vibrant legacy of the 1960s African American avant-garde to current art and culture. It is occasioned in part by the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), a still-flourishing organization of Chicago musicians whose interdisciplinary explorations expanded the boundaries of jazz. Alongside visual arts collectives such as the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA), the AACM was part of a deep engagement with black cultural nationalism both in Chicago and around the world during and after the civil rights era. Combining historical materials with contemporary responses, The Freedom Principle illuminates the continued relevance of that engagement today.
The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council with curators Alex Fialho & Melissa Levin have arranged (Counter) Public Art, Intervention & Performance in Lower Manhattan from 1978–1993: an exhibition featuring artwork and documentation of public art, performance and interventions by Agnes Denes, Eiko & Koma, the Guerilla Girls, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Tehching Hsieh, John Kelly, Pope.L, REPOhistory, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, the collaborative co-creators of Electric Blanket (Allen Frame, Frank Franca and Nan Goldin), and more.
Pope.L: Trinket is an exhibition of new and recent work by the Chicago-based artist, an essential figure in the development of performance and body art since the 1970s. The exhibition will be installed in the soaring spaces of the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA and is comprised of large-scale installations, and features a new performance and sculpture work made specifically for the exhibition. Pope.L: Trinket is curated by MOCA Senior Curator Bennett Simpson.
A preface is usually written after the fact. And so is this thing you are about to read.
A performance of the text occurred on April 26, 2014 at the Whitney Museum of American Art and was enacted by five street artists (four Chinese and one Caucasian) who drew sketches of the audience. On my signal, they threw these sketches into the air. A dancer playing a waitress repeatedly dropped napkins beneath a sound track of drones, trains, and rains and me, yours truly, at the podium voicing a version of the text that follows. What does a preface ever really tell us? That something else follows. And the thing, the thing that follows, preceded the thing with which you first started.zzZ
This groundbreaking exhibition is the first comprehensive survey of performance art by black artists working from the perspective of the visual arts from the 1960s to the present. While black performance has been largely contextualized as an extension of theater, visual artists have integrated performance into their work for more than five decades, generating an important history that has gone largely unrecognized until now.
Iconic performance artist Pope.L's Cage Unrequited is a marathon reading of John Cage’s edited anthology, Silence: Lectures and Writings (1961) by over eighty invited collaborators. The performance functions as a refuge, proposing a relationship between the earlier artist’s ideas of indeterminacy, mysticism and chance and the work of contemporary black artists.
Providing a critical history beginning with Fluxus and Conceptual art in the early 1960s through present-day practices, Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art chronicles the emergence and development of black performance art over three generations, presenting a rich and complex look at this important facet of contemporary art. The exhibition comprises more than 100 works by some 36 artists, including video and photo documentation of performances, performance scores and installations, interactive works, and artworks created as a result of performance actions.
Radical Presence chronicles the emergence and develop-
ment of African American performance practices in contemporary art. Surveying the scene from the 1960s to the present day, this major exhibition examines the rich and complex history of black performance in the United States. The show features work of artists such as Benjamin Patterson, David Hammons, Senga Nengudi, and Coco Fusco.
A series of performances by participating artists accompanies the exhibition, which is presented in two parts: Part I, Sept. 10– Dec. 7, 2013, at the Grey Art Gallery, NYU; Part II, Nov. 14, 2013–Mar. 9, 2014, at The Studio Museum in Harlem. Radical Presence is organized by the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.
Pope.L in collaboration with the arts organization SPACES, has challenged the city of Cleveland to help him pull an 8 ton former ice cream truck, by hand, 34 miles from the eastside of the city to the westside over 3 days, June 7 to 9. And he needs your help to do it.
Blues for Smoke is an interdisciplinary exhibition that explores a wide range of contemporary art through the lens of the blues and blues aesthetics. In conjunction with Blues for Smoke, Pope.L will stage a performance and hands-on project that invites visitors to explore the definitions surrounding the blues, and ask how the blues “aesthetic” has migrated over place and time.
superHUMAN Friday, June 8 –Friday, August 3, 2012 Central Utah Art Center (CUAC) 86 N Main, Ephraim, Utah 84627 Thursday, September 6–Saturday, December 22, 2012 Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art 591 Broad Street, Newark, NJ 07102 Artists Blanka Amezkua, Edgar Arcenaux, Kevin Darmanie, Kurt Forman, Chitra Ganesh, Fay Ku, Shaun El C. Leonardo, Kerry James Marshall, Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz, Dulce Pinzón, Pope.L, Robert Pruitt, Xaviera Simmons, Saya Woolfalk Curated by Jorge Rojas and David Hawkins
Last month, artist Pope.L spent a day at MoMA, exploring the collections of artists’ multiples on view in Thing/Thought: Fluxus Editions, 1962–1978. While he was here, he produced the above performance video, which incorporates the Fluxkit to incredibly humorous effect. His visit concluded a series of collaborations with visiting artists—some of them original members of Fluxus—who had been invited to select objects from the two Fluxkits on display, which are similar but not identical, and determine their arrangement. Since the late 1970s, Pope.L has produced innovative performances and installations, often tackling potent topics of race and inequality. His interventionist approach frequently involves the public; he interacts with communities, taking on the role of provocateur. At MoMA, Pope.L addressed the institutional paradigms of the Museum. His unconventional arrangement of the Fluxus objects is on view until January 16, when the exhibition closes to the public.
Performance artist and sculptor Pope.L will present a performance and video installation entitled Blink at Prospect.2 New Orleans, the second edition of the international contemporary art biennial. For the work, the artist asked New Orleans residents to donate photos of themselves in response to the questions: "When you dream of New Orleans, what do you dream of? When you wake up in the morning, what do you see?" These donated images will be part of a video installation mounted on a truck – a modern, traveling version of a “magic lantern” projection – that will traverse the city of New Orleans from sundown on October 22, 2011 through sunrise the following day. The video, intended to be a collective “memory bank” of the residents of New Orleans, will be stationed at Xavier University's Art Village following the performance for the duration of the biennial.
Launch 6-8 pm, September 16, 2011 "CHILD" is a new major three screen video commission and film-set installation in the main gallery of Eastside Projects, Birmingham UK. The work seeks to create an atmosphere of melodrama, strangeness and oddness informed by the artist's background in theatre and performance art. The exhibition draws upon the existing context of the gallery and its surroundings combining with the cinematic references. "CHILD" is about a small troubled family coping with the long absence and return of the father. Pope.L continues to construct surprising and unique work around the dispersion and coalescing of matter, values and concepts of what it means to be alive
IAIN BAXTER & Robert Heinecken David Lieske Paul McCarthy Otto Piene Pope.L Dieter Roth Ed Ruscha Jennifer West Curated by Jenny Gheith and John McKinnon Taking inspiration from Dieter Roth's now legendary exhibition "Staple Cheese (A Race)", "Another Kind of Vapor" presents artists who have experimented with non-traditional materials. Some sculpt, mold, and print with these substances, others conserve marks and stains. Allowed to decay, decompose, or remain in stasis, these objects endure as symbols of impermanence, waste, memory, and time.
Flux This, with Pope.L and Special Guests Museum of Modern Art, New York Instructions, proposals, notions, a phone call, and a trampoline. A day and a half of Fluxus-inspired-and-disgusted workshops, performances, video, and interventions, concluding with an evening of short things and even shorter things. Everyone is invited! 12:00–6:30 p.m. in the Cullman Education Building mezzanine and classrooms (admission is free) 6:30 p.m. in the Celeste Bartos Theater (T3) (tickets required) Open rehearsals for this event take place on March 24. In conjunction with the exhibitions Instruction Lab and Contemporary Art from the Collection Tickets for the 6:30 p.m. theater event ($10; $8 members; $5 students, seniors, staff of other museums) can be purchased online or at the lobby information desk and the film desk.
Pope.L at FIAC, Paris, October 21 - 24 Booth A40 – Mitchell-Innes & Nash New York, September, 2010: Mitchell-Innes & Nash will present a solo booth featuring Pope.L at FIAC, Paris from October 21 through 24. The works on view, dating from the 1990s to the present, will include sculpture, photographs, painting and drawing, as well as a performance in the FIAC booth.
Mitchell-Innes & Nash is pleased to announce Pope.L's "Eating the Wall Street Journal" in the exhibition "The Last Newspaper" at the New Museum. Pope.L will supervise a performative restaging of this seminal work enlisting a team of collaborators to occasionally wander throughout the museum eating the financial daily.
An endurance performance taking place Saturday afternoons throughout Pope.L's exhibition, landscape + object + animal.
Saturday May 8 5:15pm 6:30pm
Sunday May 9 2pm 3:15pm 4:30pm
Monday May 10 2pm 3:15pm 4:30pm
Saturday May 15 2pm 3:15pm 4:30pm
Saturday May 22 3:15pm 4:30pm
Saturday May 29 2pm 3:15pm 4:30pm
Saturday June 5 2pm 3:15pm 4:30pm
Saturday June 12 2pm 3:15pm 4:30pm
Saturday June 19 2pm 3:15pm 4:30pm
Mitchell-Innes & Nash is pleased to announce Pope.L's participation in SCULPTURECENTER AT THE NEW SCHOOL Expanded, Exploded, Collapsed? Monday, April 19, 2010 – 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The New School, Theresa Lang Community and Student Center 55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor Admission: $8, free for all students as well as SculptureCenter members and New School faculty, staff, and alumni with ID.
Mitchell-Innes & Nash is pleased to announce Pope.L in the DeCordova Biennial. The 2010 DeCordova Biennial exhibition is the newest iteration in DeCordova's long history of showcasing contemporary art in New England. The museum is located at 51 Sandy Pond Rd, Lincoln, MA and is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10-5 and select holidays. Please call 781 259-8355 for more information.
"The Black Factory does not make blackness, it performs blackness. Sometimes the performance is a conversation, sometimes a provocation, sometimes its a commodity, sometimes its losing your commodities and sleeping at the shelter, sometimes its working in the soup kitchen of that shelter, sometimes the performance of blackness is simply an idea bearing on some distant resemblance from which I will always say: From here I dare to begin."
Mitchell-Innes & Nash is pleased to announce the participation of Pope.L in the exhibition, "30 Americans," at the Rubell Family Collection. December 3, 2008 – November 28, 2009 Rubell Family Collection 95 NW 29th Street Miami, Florida 33127 Phone: (305) 573-6090
Open to the public: December 3, 2008 – May 30, 2009 Wednesday through Saturday 10 AM – 6 PM Art Basel 2008 Hours: December 3, 9 AM – 6 PM December 4, 8 AM – 6 PM December 5 – 9, 9 AM – 6 PM
Animal Nationalism is comprised of two works: "Trinket," a large-scale, publicly accessible installation at the Exhibition Hall at the Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City Convention Center, and a video and performance piece called "Small Cup" at Grand Arts.
The performance artist Pope.L is asking a lot of Art Institute audiences these days. His “experimental restaging” of a slavery narrative credited as the oldest surviving African-American play moves the few dozen attendees and performers from the bowels of the museum’s Rubloff Auditorium to its sound booth to, in one memorable, pungent moment, its women’s bathroom.
Pope.L has called the works on view at this show “a disgustingly neat pile of doubt, experiment, and denial shoved up hot against claim, leap, gambit, and caesura—your basic scrabbling about in the dark . . .” Included are works from the artist’s “RePhoto” collage series, for which he edited and recombined images of body parts to create “figural encounters,” as well as sculptures and an installation featuring versions of Pope.L’s video Syllogism. Titled “One thing after another (part two),” the show follows Pope.L’s recent winning of the Whitney Museum’s $100,000 Bucksbaum Award.
In this follow up to his similarly named solo show at La Panacee museum in Montpellier, Pope.L presents works—including a selection of “Re-Photo” collages, his Syllogism video project, and wall-mounted assemblage sculptures in acrylic boxes—that he describes as “a disgustingly neat pile of doubt, experiment, and denial shoved up hot against claim, leap, gambit, and caesura.”
Though there is an immediacy in film that feels particularly poignant at this time, the show’s significance is not dependent on our culture’s heightened awareness. The ideas these videos consider are neither new nor are they temporary. They remain critical to examine decade after decade.
Earlier this month, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh announced several new acquisitions, including “Fountain (reparations version)” (2016-17) by Chicago-based Pope.L. The sculpture is on view in the modern and contemporary galleries which have been re-hung to reflect the “depth, diversity, and eccentricities” of the Carnegie Museum’s collection.
At 62, Pope.L is inarguably the greatest performance artist of our time. This is exactly the kind of label he would find absurd, but over the course of the last four decades, no artist has so consistently broken down the accepted boundaries of the genre in order to bring it closer to the public, with lacerating, perspicacious and gloriously anti-authoritarian projects that play with our received notions of race and class and almost always cut more than one way.
The following interview—my second with Pope.L—was conducted through email correspondence over several months. His responses are written with the freewheeling, contradic- tory energy of his art, with both stuttered emotional reac- tions and carefully parsed explanations.
The prevailing memory of the 2017 Whitney Biennial will likely be the outrage over Dana Schutz’s painting of Emmett Till, but it would be a shame if that overshadowed Pope.L’s strange, complicated, and typically irreverent 2017 work, Claim (Whitney Version). A large, pink-colored cube, the installation was festooned with pieces of bologna, as well as small photographic portraits of what the artist claimed were Jewish people. (“Fortified wine” was also used as a material.) The enigmatic work proves especially complex amidst the current resurgence of identity politics, and in June, it netted the artist the coveted Bucksbaum Award.
Detroit and its surrounding areas present a case study in urban decline – one that has spurred many artists to work directly with local communities. In Flint, Michigan, for example – a once-thriving industrial city and now a symbol of post-industrial neglect and government corruption – an ongoing crisis over contaminated water has prompted several artist responses.
But there is a juxtaposition in the exhibition that saves me from the disappointment I’m left with, where Pope L. has interjected one of his text pieces. Most of these pieces by Pope L. are displayed in the entranceways between galleries, and they felt too editorial for me, like comments in the comment section of an online article.
Flint Water Project, supported by the Knight Foundation as part of the Knight Arts Challenge and a Kickstarter campaign, came about when What Pipeline invited Pope.L to create a project in Detroit. The Kickstarter page states, “When Pope.L was asked by What Pipeline to do a commission for Detroit, he felt that whatever he did it should not re-victimize the city as had been done too often in the past. What if Detroit could be the hero and come to the rescue of another Midwest city in need?”
And yet, the "Flint Water Project" cannot be separated from the potential impact it may have outside of the gallery or the homes of individual collectors. Three years after it became widely known, the Flint water crisis is, after all, ongoing, and the human costs are all too real. (The water being bottled and sold at What Pipeline comes from the home of Flint resident Tiantha Williams, whose young son was born prematurely due to complications from her consumption of Flint water during pregnancy.)
From his earliest works made as an undergraduate, which include fiction, plays, song lyrics, etc., that were retroactively organized under the title Communications Devices, Pope.L has wrestled with language as communication, while illustrating a profound understanding that language is not a transparent medium. Neither is race, however often it’s looked through. Instead, Pope.L makes the surfaces of his work murky and obdurate, highlighting their visibility while also obscuring them.
Chicago-based artist Pope.L, who recently won the 2017 Bucksbaum Award for his work in this year’s Whitney Biennial, is raising funds on Kickstarter for an interventionist installation and performance piece that calls attention to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. For Flint Water Project, the artist will purchase and bottle 150 gallons of polluted water from Flint residents. He will then sell the bottles as limited edition artworks in Detroit.
“When Pope.L was asked by What Pipeline to do a commission for Detroit,” the Kickstarter proposal reads, “he felt that whatever he did it should not re-victimize the city as had been done too often in the past. What if Detroit could be the hero and come to the rescue of another midwest city in need?” It adds, at another point, “The goals for his work are several: joy, money, and uncertainty—not necessarily in that order.”
When the curators began organizing “20/20: The Studio Museum in Harlem and Carnegie Museum of Art,” Barack Obama was still president. “It’s very interesting how things shifted over the course of planning the exhibition,” Mr. Crosby said. As they structured the show, they made changes in response to “the polarized political landscape we find ourselves in.”
For this performance piece that will run 24 hours a day for the entire course of the exhibition, artist Pope.L enlisted performers to wander around both Athens and Kassel whispering fictional texts penned by the artist, randomly generated series of numbers, and folk songs from the 1930s to themselves while publish audio speakers in both cities play similar content.
The esteemed multidisciplinary artist Pope.L is having a moment. His contribution to Documenta 14, the prestigious international exhibition in Kassel, Germany — and this year also in Athens — is the slyly subversive “Whispering Campaign,” featuring performers who walk the streets of both cities, confiding in strangers the artist’s elliptical yet biting aphorisms about race and color from his word- based “Skin Set” drawings. Last month, Pope.L’s “Claim (Whitney Version),” a beautiful vexing installation featuring an enormous pastel-colored room festooned with slices of baloney, received the Bucksbaum Award as a “boundary-breaking” work in the recent Whitney Biennial.
The conceptual artist, who was recently awarded the Bucksbaum Prize for his piece in the Whitney Biennial, is best known for confrontationally absurdist public performances. But this show of early work highlights his gift for combining text, found imagery, and evocative materials. In some of his assemblages, smeared peanut butter, like impasto pigment, frames magazine clippings, such as one that reads “Now You Can Bring Black History Home” and features a photo of African-American schoolchildren reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. In the sardonic, Rauschenbergian “Crawling to Richard Pryor’s House,” from 1994, a froglike, brown stuffed animal, sandwiched by paint and wood glue on a board, also bears a fragmentary, appropriated image of a child. Pope.L has a knack for drawing out the scatological qualities of gestural painting, the abject potential of collage, and the rhetorical power of color to expose the psychosexual substrate of American racism.
Pope.L's installation Pedestal, a Elkay drinking fountain deconstructed and hung from the ceiling, alludes to the segregated black and white drinking fountains installed throughout the South during Jim Crow. The work releases water into a hole in the gallery's floor every two-and-a-half minutes. The gesture alludes to Pope.L's "Hole Theory." In a book titled after the theory, the artist writes, "Hole Theory engages lack/Across economic and cultural/And political boundaries/[Lack is where it's AT]." Pope.L's theory is rooted in the social conditions of 1980s black life, the drugs that flooded the community, the jobs that left it, and the culture, like Hip-hop, that sprung from the era's black rage.
“The visibility you get through Documenta, you can’t get anywhere else,” says Sven Christian Schuch of Galerie Sfeir-Semler, which is showing collages by the Lebanese- Dutch artist Mounira Al Solh at Art Basel. But a “quick sell” is not what the gallery is expecting, he says. Instead, he hopes that the institutional attention generated by Documenta could help to secure a possible future solo show for Al Solh. But the artist’s “moderate prices” can make this fair strategy a risk. “Every centimetre on the walls is very expensive,” Schuch says.
But among the questions it presents, Claim, more than other artwork in the Biennial, stresses the unique problems museums and collectors face as contemporary art grows more ambitious in its materials: how to conserve works made of substances meant to last for several days or weeks. After all, it’s difficult to imagine bologna portraits transcending millennia like a classical marble bust or centuries like a Rembrandt. Getting a sculpture made of deli meat to survive the decade could even be a stretch. While Claim may be an extreme case of perishable art, Pope L. is far from alone.
Walk through Kassel for long enough (which you certainly will if you come to to this sprawling exhibition) and you’ll find yourself spinning around at least once looking for the source of a disembodied voice. It’s most likely not a monster from the Kassel-born Brothers Grimm haunting the city, but instead a work by Whitney Biennial and now documenta favorite Pope.L.
“It’s a really large enterprise, and this go-around it’s even more difficult to encompass,” Pope.L, who shows at Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York, said while sitting next to me at L’Osteria’s zinc bar with free pistachios. “But I’ve been making works for the past ten years, maybe longer, where my intent is to make something that even I can’t encompass myself. So it felt perfectly within that agenda.
Pope.L wins 2017 Whitney Museum Bucksbaum Award | Chicago-based artist Pope.L is the 2017 winner of the Whitney Museum’s annual Bucksbaum Award. The $100,000 prize goes to Pope.L, also known as William Pope.L, for his contribution to this year’s Whitney Biennial: Claim (Whitney Version) (2017), an installation containing 2,755 slices of bologna.
“The Bucksbaum Award recognizes extraordinary artists whose works are inventive, urgent, and promise to be enduring,” Mary E. Bucksbaum Scanlan—the daughter of the prize’s namesake, Melva Bucksbaum, who died in 2015—said in a statement. “I am proud that this tradition continues with the first Biennial in the Whitney’s downtown home by honoring Pope.L, a singular artist in a class of his own.”
The multidisciplinary artist Pope.L (also known as William Pope.L) has been named the recipient of the 2017 Bucksbaum Award, which recognizes an artist whose work was featured in the recent Whitney Biennial. Previous winners include Sarah Michelson and Zoe Leonard.
Leigh Ledare shot his 16mm film Vokzal (2016) in a square where the presence of three railway stations creates unusual patterns of foot traffic: neither linear, like that directed by sidewalks, nor ambling, as in a park, but combining multiple directions of strolling in an open space with multiple, specific destinations. Ledare would train his lens on particular pedestrians and follow them until they exited the range of his view...Like Ledare’s film, Pope.L’s work begins with surreptitious camerawork in public space, but the rigid ordering and smell of rotting lunchmeat suggest something less exploratory and more sinister.
Every two-and-a-half minutes exactly, Pope.L’s “Pedestal,” an upside-down water fountain bolted to the ceiling, releases a thin jet of water into a hole in the floor. It’s a disquieting meditation on the nature of time — endlessly replenished but endlessly fleeting — made more ominous by “Well (elh version),” a series of small ledges bearing water glasses that must be topped up with eyedroppers every day by gallery staff.
Best known for absurdist public performances, Pope.L has a history of dealing with the politics of race and identity—which the African-American artist doesn’t limit to black versus white: His installation at the 2017 Whitney Biennial, for instance, consists of a four-sided structure covered with rows of rotting bologna slices meant to represent the percentage of Jews in New York City. With a solo show opening in midtown, Pope.L talks about his fascination with the relationship between words and pictures, his fondness for quirky materials and the importance of truth in his art.
On view at Mitchell- Innes & Nash will be Pope.L’s “Proto- Skin Sets,” made between 1979 and 1994 and never before publicly exhibited. Combining text and odd materials like semen, peanut butter, and hair, these works reflect on black history and how identity gets constructed. Also in this exhibition will be “Communications Devices,” a set of works form the 1970s in which Pope.L wrote on postcards from SoHo gallery shows, copied these promotional materials, and then left stacks of them in galleries.
A friend and I recently had a conversation about the trend of galleries putting together shows of famous artist’s lesser-known works from yesteryear and writing a vague exhibition text to explain why they’re important. Here, that means “an exhibition of early work by Pope.L dating from 1979-1994 that demonstrates the function of materiality and language in his practice.”
While that sentence doesn’t really say anything, we’re guessing this show will be good because Pope.L is a genius and the racial politics he’s addressed in his work since 1979 are sadly still all-too-relevant today. We’re guessing “the function of materiality and language” will always be “relevant” until we’re all telepathically linked by some Elon Musk gadget.
Generally made with pen and ink on graph paper, Pope.L’s Skin Set works from the late 1990s and into the 2010s offer sharp, sometimes witty critiques of the absurdity of racial stereotypes and references to skin color (i.e “Black People are the Window and the Breaking of the Window,” “Blue People Cannot Conceive of Themselves,” “White People Are Angles on Fire”). This exhibition of early works executed on local newspapers, billboards, and advertisements anticipates the artist’s Skin Set works. In a series of works dating from 1979-1994, Pope.L explores issues including race and masculinity and the function of language and materiality in his practice. The artist is also currently presenting work in the Whitney Biennial.
The curators, Mia Locks and Christopher Lew, have laid out a daring exhibition that is representative of a broad swath of the population. At its center is Pope.L (aka William Pope.L)’s Claim (Whitney Version) (2017), a pink box on the outside slathered mint green on the inside. Pinned with 2,755 slices of bologna, each slice has a photocopy portrait of a person affixed to it. PopeL. claims the slices are consistent with a percentage of New York City’s 1,086,000 Jewish residents.
Conceptually, the luscious degradation and lingering stink points to anxieties about identity at the heart of the exhibition and indeed the greater culture in the United States.
Certainty is only a claim, like the title of another perplexing piece in the Biennial. A re-creation of an earlier installation at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, “Claim (Whitney Version)” by the artist Pope.L, aka William Pope.L, is a grid of 2,755 slices of bologna, each one affixed with a photocopied image, a blurry face, and corresponding, in total, to a percentage of New York’s Jewish population. The artist’s “claim,” made in an accompanying text, may be “a bit off,” he concedes. Such claims are bologna.
Pope.L’s Whispering Campaign (2016-17), installed in various forms across seven Athenian venues, preserves and passes on fragmented narrative artifacts, reinvesting in the art of hearing and being heard. At the Conservatoire, the campaign takes the form of a turquoise safe, which stands unassumingly in a corner. Its door remains locked, its contents out of site, but, if you pass it at an opportune moment, you will hear the dulcet tones of a singer from the southern US emanating from within. The figure himself is absent, his voice distorted over time, but his story is there to be preserved, if you want it.
Multimedia artist Pope.L’s installation, Claim (Whitney Version), features 2,755 slices of bologna pinned to its wall, and each slice bears a portrait of someone who is supposedly Jewish. The piece raises questions of collective identity and how people turn abstract when reduced to numbers. Within the structure is a typewritten statement, with copy-edit marks from the artists, that ponders whether the rotting, dripping bologna represents “the flesh returning back to world” or maybe the slices are “mourning a haunted order.”
In Athens, the Documenta team is collaborating with around 40 local institutions, including the Benaki Museum, the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus, the Numismatic Museum and as the First Cemetery of Athens where, from 8 April, the American artist Pope.L will be performing his Whispering Campaign (2016-17) in which five performers will roam the city whispering their observations to the public.
The opening-week program spans a list of performances too long to reprint, but some highlights will surely be provided by the likes of Sanja Iveković, who is creating a “creative oral document” at Avdi Square every day from 11 am to 9 pm; Pope.L, whose multi-part performance will happen across “five to six public spaces” over five hours; or sex activist Annie Sprinkle, who also participated in the pre-program in Athens with a lecture on the pleasures of water.
Focusing primarily on solo presentations of artists, as in one artist per space, the show is well-curated with more than one canny juxtaposition (two personal favorites were Leigh Ledare’s 16 mm film Vokzal  of the public around three Moscow train stations with John Divola’s elegant “Abandoned Paintings” [2007–8] photos, which feature recuperated discarded student paintings in derelict domestic settings, and Henry Taylor’s big brushy paintings of black communities next to Deana Lawson’s elaborately staged, intimate portraits of black subjects).
Pope.L’s enormous room covered inside and out with a careful grid of embellished slices of baloney, embodies his usual sarcasm, even if the point about population breakdowns remains obscure.
For the Whitney Museum of American Art's first Biennial in its new home in the Meatpacking district, its curators chose quintessentially 2017 key themes: the formation of self and the individual's place in a turbulent society. As you might expect, traces of American political turmoil tinge much of the art.
A film split into three 16 mm projections assembled randomly throughout a space, Vozkal captures the social interactions of hundreds of Russian citizens loitering, working in, or passing through a Moscow train station. What is so fascinating about the projections is that while you watch the citizens go about their days, they at first seem like they are free to do what they want. But a creeping sense of dread builds throughout the piece as you begin to notice perilous looking men lurking about, perhaps policing or spying on the area. It reminds the viewer that a modern society falls into chaos and fear quietly.
All the while, the stomach-turning scent of Pope.L’s installation wafts across much of the floor. It includes almost 3000 slices of baloney, each imprinted with a portrait of “a purported Jewish person pasted at its center” and pinned to the inner and outer walls of a box-like environment. Within its chamber, a note typed by the artist in irregular font and scrawled over with a pen bemoans the racial and ethnic categorization of humans, “as if we are simply sets in a math problem.”
One of the senior figures here is Pope.L, the consistently discomfiting Chicago-based African-American artist whose fifth-floor installation, a kind of free-standing room, is adorned with a number of actual, fleshy, putrefying baloney slices, nailed to its walls in grid.
There are 63 artists in the Whitney Biennial this time around, and while individual results may vary, some of my personal favorites would include Pope L's "Claim (Whitney Version)," a giant cube covered inside and out with meticulously-spaced slices of rotting bologna, each one of which is embedded with a bleary, photocopied portrait.
Every Biennial contains a couple of did-you-see? popular hits. In 2017, the two are likely to be by Pope.L aka William Pope.L and Raúl de Nieves. “Claim (Whitney Version)” 2017, Pope.L’s large box room, is festooned on the outside with slices of real bologna dripping grease and arranged in a grid, mimicking round dots on a chart. The smell, surprisingly, isn’t unpleasant and the artist’s jibe at coldly translating flesh-and-blood beings into data spots registers immediately.
There are plenty of exciting works at the museum's marquee event.
The 2017 Whitney Biennial, the institution’s first since its move to the Meatpacking District, opens to the public later this week, but already the buzz is positive.
Written and signed by Pope.L himself, the text took on the absurd duty of explicating a work—titled Claim (Whitney Version), 2017—that is, among other things, about absurdity itself. The slices of bologna (2,755, to be exact) are said to correspond to a ratio relating to the number of Jewish citizens living in New York, and all the rest follows from that, from a methodical portrait-taking system to an ostensibly hyper-organized arrangement of objects in a grid with pencil lines to keep everything straight.
One of the show’s senior figures is the Chicago artist Pope.L — who facetiously called himself “the friendliest black artist in America,” and whose views on race and self are wildly unfixed. Here he reworks a 2014 installation in which hundreds of slices of bologna are fixed with small, hard-to-decipher photos. Mr. Pope.L suggests in an adjacent text that the photos represent Jewish people — but then again, the sitters may not be Jewish at all. Take the pungent bologna any way you like it. Ms. Locks put it this way: “I love the idea that it’s this perfect grid, this perfect system, with the most false, sloppy data points you’ve ever seen. Literally deteriorating.”
This year’s installment of the Independent art fair opened today, with a preview this afternoon and a public opening Friday, March 3. In Spring Studios in Tribeca for a second year, the fair gathers 52 exhibitors from 20 cities, with 15 presenting booths for the first time. Below, have a look around the fair.
Surface Tension serves as the backdrop to a video projection of William Pope.L’s 2000 performance “The Great White Way, 22 Miles, 9 Years, 1 Street,” in which he famously crawled 22 miles of sidewalk from the beginning to the end of Broadway — Manhattan’s longest street — wearing a capeless Superman outfit with a skateboard strapped to his back.
“I was excited about Obama, but at the same time I was wondering how the machine of conventional politics would nullify his impact. You could say I was suspicious. I’m the kind of person who sees clouds on the horizon. Or smoke. There’s always this sense that there’s more to do. And we became complacent. Otherwise I don’t think what happened on Nov. 8 would have happened. It’s almost as if we thought black people — or President Obama — could solve everything. It’s about some fantasy we had — this Caramel Camelot. And so now we are where we are."
Pope.L and Mia Locks discuss "Americanismo" in the 57th issue of Mousse Magazine.
The Barnes Foundation will celebrate more than 50 artists’ engagement with different communities in “Person of the Crowd: The Contemporary Art of Flânerie,” opening Feb. 25. The artists Tania Bruguera and Sanford Biggers will organize performances in the city streets, and the Guerrilla Girls collective will create billboards. Additionally, Monument Lab (a group of curators, scholars, students and artists who aim to ask what kind of monuments the city needs) will mount a temporary work by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. In May, the Association for Public Art will bring the artist Martin Puryear’s largest public sculpture to date, “Big Bling,” to the city for six months.
Artist Pope. L has a much-buzzed about performance for the biennial slated for September 7. Baile is described by the artist as “a physical vocabulary developing in response to the city and the manifestations (or protests) that occur. It’s the idea that no matter how desperate the politics, the party will go on.”
Ahead of his show at New York’s Drawing Center in 2018, the artist Pope.L held a workshop this summer with writers, curators and others to preview and discuss his staging of a play written by a former slave.
“You have to see Pope.L’s performance,” Art Basel director Marc Spiegler told me. It was scheduled for 6 PM. That was now. I ran for the Mitchell-Innes & Nash–sponsored room—and fell in behind a man dressed in a white gorilla suit (the artist).
Followed by an annoying film crew, and watched by expectant iPhone- and iPad-wielding curators, critics, collectors, advisors, and dealers, the silent Pope.L opened and closed a clear plastic umbrella, climbed and descended from a white kitchen stepladder, picked up a white satchel and walked around the space, inspecting the paintings (his) on the walls. When he pulled at one canvas, a thick wad of cash fell into his hand. He put it in the satchel. He repeated this action twice, then took a small white sculpture of a Paul McCarthy–like gnome out of his bag, placed it on the floor, and left the room.
Nicholas Baume, the director and chief curator of the Public Art Fund, said he was particularly struck by Pope.L’s performance at Unlimited’s opening, in which the artist wandered through the fair in a white gorilla suit before departing in a white limousine.
Art Basel is around the corner and excitement is feverish. For his sins, the Rake is giving it a miss this year (all that mountain air feels a bit too healthy) but his Swiss moles are keeping him in the know. Among the more intriguing pieces of literature to have come their way is an announcement from New York gallery Mitchell-Innes & Nash, heralding a new performance piece called The Problem by American artist Pope L.
Pay peanuts and you get monkeys, the old idiom goes. Yet a new great-ape performance at this year’s Art Basel seems to suggest hard cash remains a motivating factor among some primates.
The Chicago performance artist Pope.L will stage his new performance, The Problem, to open the Unlimited section of Art Basel, which takes place in the Swiss city 16 – 19 June. Here’s how his gallery, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, describes the piece.
“A white gorilla emerges from a white stretch limo at the entrance of the fair. Spilling white plantains onto the ground, the gorilla enters Unlimited, and wanders through the convention centre, looking for something. The beast drops more white things as it wanders. Eventually, the entity finds what it is looking for: an exhibition space containing a set of paintings called Circa by the famous negro artist Pope.L. The gorilla ignores the paintings and searches behind them, finally extracting five fat stacks of currency. The creature exits, leaving behind a garden gnome painted completely white except for a black-faced nose.”
Mitchell Innes and Nash offers an array of works by the
multidisciplinary artist Pope.L. The stand’s centrepiece is a
sculpture, Coffin (Flag Box) (2008), an L-for-Liberty-shaped
rough wooden box that generates the uncomfortable sound of a
flag flapping. These are accompanied by a number of newer wall
works, the most interesting of which are shoe-box-sized—and
just as textural as they are textual—often with gesso or acrylic
smeared over the words. The words on the other hand are equal
part signifiers and signifying. Sad Cop Small Dog (2015) evokes
just what it needs to, and feels pretty groovy with is colourful
bubbly script—but, wait, why is it pinned to wood with pushpins?
And is that blood up on top? Tight works, to be sure.
Pope L. lands like a piledriver from heavyweight Mitchell Innes & Nash. The gallery
is new to the Independent this year and presents the most coherent show of the fair. Pope L.’s work continues to be provocative and the sounds of flapping flags emerging from his 2008 Coffin (Flag Box) shook up an otherwise lethargic crowd at the opening. Canvases like Black People Are Shit (2012) are especially needed in such a privileged and white-washed venue.
The Independent is refreshing after a few hours at the Armory. The new location at Spring Studios in Tribeca is capacious, with lots of natural light, which slows the often overwhelming pace of these fairs. If its new digs feel a little corporate, it gives the art (and people) room to breathe. The effect is particularly strong with New York’s Mitchell-Innes & Nash’s solo presentation with Pope.L. Two massive works on paper, Black People Are Shit and Green People Are Hark (both 2012), spell out their titles in massive, block letters. The layers of paint meld the words to the paper, lending both a rippling weight. Nearby, a simple L-shaped coffin (Coffin [Flag Box], 2008) is partially supported by a book titled Birth of Nations, while the distorted sounds of a flag whipping in the wind plays through speakers inset to its walls. Google searches of the book mostly linked to the infamous, racist film The Birth of a Nation (1917), but I could not confirm its contents, or whether it was real or of the artist’s creation. Pope.L’s work has a gut-punch immediacy, and issues of race, alienation, and democracy break down
into a poetic and absurd interplay between identity, language, and materials.
One of the few political statements at the fair came from the veteran performance artist Pope.L (he recently dropped the "William" from his name), who combined abstraction with found objects steeped in racial caricature in this painting and invoked cops and doughnuts in other text-based works.
The continuity between the booths at Independent and the galleries themselves is as appealing to dealers as it is for the rest of us. Mitchell-Innes & Nash, which has in the past shown at the Armory and ADAA shows and which will present at Independent for the first time this year, is showing a solo booth of sculpture and paintings by performance artist Pope.L. “The gallery schedule is booked through at least 2017,” says Lucy Mitchell-Innes, referring to her West 26th Street space. “This is a mini show.” Taylor Trabulus, director of the understated Martos Gallery, agrees: “We think of Independent as more of a show than an art fair.” Martos will show work by artists experimenting in new mediums this weekend, including wallpaper by Michel Auder and sculptural chairs from painter Jess Fuller. Adam Lindemann’s Venus Over Manhattan gallery is bringing a solo booth of early work by California artist Peter Saul.
Through March 5th, Andrea Rosen Gallery will feature a dual exhibition
of Pope.L andWill Boone. Both conceptual artists will occupy the three-room Chelsea
space with respective video installations, sculptures, and paintings.
At a preview last month, Pope.L discussed his ontological fascination with words by
divulging the inspiration behind some of his pieces, notably, Cone in a Forest and Cone for My Sister (Private Language Problem) (2015), a large cone installation made of wooden sculpted letters.
the artwork on show includes rarely displayed collaged works on postcards by Wangechi Mutu ART ’00 from her personal collection, a site-specific installation in ink, pencil and wash on paper by Firelei Baez titled “Memory, Like Fire, is Radiant and Immutable,” and a video piece by William Pope.L where, dressed as Superman with a skateboard on his back, he crawls all the way to the Bronx from the base of the Statue of Liberty.
The Wednesday night opening of Art Public includes four performance pieces. In Chinese artist Yan Xing’s L’amour l’apres midi, young men in embroidered silks flirt with passersby. Xavier Cha’s supreme ultimate exercise contrasts bodybuilders hoisting truck tires with the flowing movement of a tai chi practitioner. In Ryan Gander’s Ernest Hawker, a fictional character, based on Gander, plays a drunken, washed-up artist. And Pope.L’s The Beautiful features black men with skateboards on their backs who crawl onto a stage to sing America the Beautiful. All will pop up unannounced from among the crowd at the park.
Following a powerful exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art this summer, the Chicago artist known as Pope.L, or just Pope.L, returns to Los Angeles with a show that sprawls across two galleries — Susanne Vielmetter in Culver City and Steve Turner in Hollywood — as well as the spaces in between.
The show at Vielmetter is titled “Forest.” At Turner, it's “Desert.” And Pope.L has created audio GPS tours for driving between the two. This emphasis on the space between is just one point of entry to an exhibition that includes drawings on Pop-Tarts, stuffed animals entombed in peanut butter and giant erasers. Throughout, Pope.L draws connections between interstitial spaces and our notions of blackness.
On the exhibition’s opening night on December 2 a series live performance works will light up the park. Revered performance artist Pope.L has prepared a version of his iconic “crawl” performance, this time featuring four men who will skate through the park laying on skateboards before crawling to a stage to sing America The Beautiful.
Pope.L has a prolific and polymorphous multi-media art
practice. In addition to his well-known performances, he creates
sculpture, installation, drawings, paintings, photography, video, and
writing. With seemingly inextinguishable curiosity and boundless
appetite, Pope.L absorbs every possible medium and explores the many
themes that are important to him with drollery, poetry, and a unique,
irreverent, inquisitive, and highly personal point of view. He once
described himself as “a fisherman of social absurdity.”
Chicago-based artist Pope.L works in a variety of mediums, including painting, spoken word, installation, and performance, to challenge ideas of race and social stereotypes. His practice questions society’s claims on identity and the body. Pope.L has famously crawled all over New York City: for his piece “Tompkins Square Crawl” (1991), he climbed through the gutters of Tompkins Square Park in a suit, and in “The Great White Way,” he crawled the entire 22 miles of Broadway over a period of five years wearing a superman suit with a skateboard slung over his back. He has eaten an issue of the Wall Street Journal while sitting on a toilet in his piece, “Eating the Wall Street Journal” (2000). He copyrighted his personal slogan: “The Friendliest Black Artist in America©.” His paintings and sculptures often use a variety of white foods: mayonnaise, flour, and milk. Pope.L is a master of, in his words, “genre-hopping”; he does not sit still, he’s constantly in motion challenging ideas of who we are, what we are, and what it means to be American.
Pope.L’s powerful exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen Contemporary subtly replaces passive viewing with multisensory experience. The show teems with possibilities for heightened sensation—smell, touch, vision and hearing—and draws on Pope.L’s decades of performance and video work to evoke the kinds of physical and psychical shifts a performer might experience. At the center of this selection of nine mixed-medium pieces dating from 1992 to the present is Trinket (2008/2015), a 16-by-45-foot American flag blown by four large industrial fans of the type used to simulate tornadoes on movie sets.
“Twenty years ago all the ambitious young painters I knew in New York saw abstract art as the only way out.” This sentence, the start of Clement Greenberg’s 1962 essay “After Abstract Expressionism,” provides a particular way into Pope.L’s determined exhibition at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Those painters of the 1940s, to Greenberg at least, were trying to leave behind not so much representational art, given their relative commitment to the progressive aims of modernism, but more the visuality of illusion itself. Pope.L, like most of the critical artists of his generation, understood that those aims were just as oppressive of the potent interplay of abstraction, representation, and illusion that remains with us today, as they were of artists themselves. This exhibition presents a focused selection of key works of Pope.L’s that reinforce and reconfigure categories like painting, sculpture, performance, photography, and video in order, it seems, to maintain any way out of a category or situation as another way in, even if the entire show happens to be dominated by a work made with an enormous flag of the United States of America.
An American flag half the size of a football field is the centerpiece of a new exhibit at the Geffen Contemporary at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Little Tokyo.
The 50-foot long piece constantly waves by the force of four huge industrial fans under bright lights that go on and off.
But this is no ordinary oversized flag. Its field is longer and the ends are frayed. The union bears 51 stars, not 50.
It is not so much Old Glory, as much as a new glory envisioned by the artist Pope.L.
"Trinket" is a monumental 2008 installation sculpture by Newark-born, Chicago-based artist Pope.L, 59, that put the disheartening display of media-mad political theater into devastating perspective. Centered on Old Glory, its title references the lapel pin. [...]
"LOS ANGELES — It was a plaintive sight: a monumental American flag drooping so low on its pole that it would touch the ground were it not for a wood platform. The artist Pope.L was tending to the flag carefully. He lifted the tail end, where the stripes were separated at the seams, and spread them apart, the way you might separate a girl’s long hair before braiding it.
“This is just to make sure it catches properly and doesn’t tangle,” he said. An assistant switched on four large Ritter fans, the kind used by movie studios to whip up 40-mile-an-hour winds.
Soon the flag was flying high, a wild, hydra-like form. Only it was not flying in the open air but inside the belly of the Geffen Contemporary, a branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art here, where Mr. Pope.L was readying his largest museum show to date. [...]"
The largest-ever museum presentation of work by Pope.L could, quite literally, raise the roof. The centerpiece of the exhibition, Trinket, 2008, is a massive custom-made American flag—around 50 by 20 feet—which will be hung from a pole in the middle of the Geffen Contemporary gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and blown about by four industrial fans of such strength that the flag’s ends will start to fray. The wind force is such that the building’s ventilation system has been reconfigured to make sure the roof stays intact.
A mainstay of performance and installation art since the 1970s, Pope.L will open the largest museum show of his work to date at the Geffen Contemporary at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, on March 20, 2015. Trinket, 2008, the centerpiece work, and also the title of the show, is a large-scale American flag that will be blown continuously during the museum’s public hours by a bank of industrial fans. Here, Pope.L discusses the show, which runs until June 28, 2015.
“I have a very divided take about being on the cover of Artforum,” said Pope.L, who is black. “That’s something I’m supposed to want. All artist are supposed to want that. It’s really funny when you get what you want and you have no idea what it is. You have fantasies about these things, and you get drunk and you talk about these things. ‘Oh, my Guggenheim show, we’ll get drunk and we’ll be in the back with our friends.’ It’s never like that.”
Art Historian David Joselit takes up the case of Eric Garner and its challenge to the very concept of visual evidence or representation--and its denial of images and objects as evidence of fact. Joselit considers the possibility of critical and artistic practices that may counter such failures of representation, instead staging a refusal or representation--a refusal perhaps nowhere more potent than in the performances of Pope.L, whether the artist is literally ingesting and expelling information, in Eating the Wall Street Journal, 1991-2000, or, in Foraing (Asphyxia Version), 1993-95/2008, covering his head with a white plastic bag that he clutches tightly below his chin. Is this act of self-erasure a gesture of annihilation, as the word asphyxia suggests, or is it a strategic subtraction of the body from a sphere in which that body cannot be represented anyway--cannot be visible or evident, or is subject to censure and repression?
*Text source: Artforum, Febuary 2015
Beginning in th elate '90s, Pope.L famously crawled along 22 miles of sidewalk, from the beginning to the end of Broadway - Manhattan's longest street - wearing a capeless Superman outfit with a skateboard strapped to his back.
When curator Dan Cameron inaugurated Prospect New Orleans in 2008, billed as the largest international biennial in the United States it was an act not merely of post-Hurricane Katrina revitalization but of civic reinvention. Though it received virtually no funding from depleted state or city offers, Prospect 1 generated a great deal of curiosity, goodwill, and private patronage and brought contemporary art to the city in an unprecedented way.
In 1961, the artist Allan Kaprow, who coined the term happenings, created an installation in a small open-air courtyard behind the Martha Jackson Gallery at 32 East 69th Street. He wrapped several sculptures already there — a Giacometti and a Barbara Hepworth — in protective tar paper, then filled the space with hundreds of old automobile tires, tossing them around to make piles that visitors were invited to climb.
Pope.L, who may well be the best underknown artist around, has long been doing amazing work at the frayed edges where the art world meets Wall Street and the inner city. He is best known for his performances, which have included eating and regurgitating copies of the Wall Street Journal, and crawling on his belly like a worm.
Pope.L lines the gallery with more than a hundred small drawings made in transit since 2003—on airplane napkins, newspaper photographs, hotel stationery, a Howard Johnson's shoe mitt, and so on. The images tend toward the humorously sexual, with plenty of bespectacled worms, volcanoes, and explosions.