Born 1955, Newark, NJ.
Lives and works in Chicago, IL.
Chicago-based artist William 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.Download PDF Hyperallergic
William 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.Download PDF Art in America
“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 William 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.Download PDF The Brooklyn Rail
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 William Pope.L.
"Trinket" is a monumental 2008 installation sculpture by Newark-born, Chicago-based artist William 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. [...]Download PDF Los Angeles Times
"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 William 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. [...]"Download PDF New York Times
The largest-ever museum presentation of work by William 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.Download PDF The Art Newspaper
A mainstay of performance and installation art since the 1970s, William 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.Download PDF Artforum
"At the start of her talk with William Pope.L at the College Art Association conference on Friday, part of the “Annual Distinguished Artists'” interview series, MoMA PS1 curator
Jenny Schlenzka told Pope.L that she was happy to be speaking to him.
“Well I’m happy to be a distinguished artist,” Pope.L replied, to laughter. “FINALLY.”
The hour-and-a-half-long talk covered many elements of Pope.L’s work, including his best-known performance pieces, and lingered on a more recent development in the
artist’s career: his appearance on the February cover of Artforum, a photograph of a performance in which he appears to be suffocating in a plastic bag titled Foraging
(Asphyxia Version) (1993–95/2008). [...]"
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 William 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 2015Download PDF Artforum
Beginning in th elate '90s, Wiliam 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.Download PDF
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.Download PDF
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.Download PDF
William 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.Download PDF
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.Download PDF