Pope L ~ Public Art Fund ~ Whitney Museum ~ MoMA ~ a Trio of Exhibitions




POPE.L., The Great White Way, 22 miles, 9 years, 1 street, 2000-2009, Performance © Pope.L Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York (and Public Art Fund)

Pope.L: Instigation, Aspiration, Perspiration, is a trio of exhibitions organized by The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Public Art Fund. Utilizing both public and private spaces, the expansive presentation addresses many elements of the artist’s oeuvre, from singular early works to a monumental new installation and a new large-scale performative work inspired by the artist’s iconic crawl series on the streets of New York City. Let’s begin there, with the Public Art Fund and Pope. L: conquest on September 21, 2019.

Pope.L: Conquest will take place on Saturday, September 21st, when 140 strangers will crawl together on the sidewalks of Downtown Manhattan, abandoning their physical privilege, embracing their vulnerability, and expressing the power of collective expression.

“People who are forced to give up their verticality are prey to all kinds of dangers,” said Pope.L. “But, let us imagine a person who has a job, possesses the means to remain vertical, but chooses to momentarily give up that verticality? To undergo that threat to his/her bodily/spiritual categories—would that person learn something?”

The gathering will begin at John A. Seravalli Playground in the West Village at 9:45am. All members of the public are invited to join in this free performance. Or follow the crawl in real-time on Twitter and Instagram. More information on the Public Art Fund Performance Here.


Pope. L continues on with Pope.L: Choir, the next complementary exhibition in the trio, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Lobby Gallery, from October 10th through Winter, 2020.

At the Whitney, the artist will create a new installation entitled Choir. Expanding on Pope.L’s ongoing exploration and use of water, Choir is inspired by the fountain, the public arena, and John Cage’s conception of music and sound.

Choir (2019) moves 800 gallons of water through pipes, tanks, pumps, electromagnetic valves to create a murmuring, singing, crashing circulatory sonic landscape. The installation features a drinking fountain ~ an appliance often associated with Him Crow segregation ~ that has been inverted and appears to instantly gush almost half a ton of water into a massive milky white water tank. The artist refers to Choir as an “experiment” consisting of a kinetic entity that seems to function on its own (for whom we are never told), producing an acoustical concert of filling and draining, drips and drops. Joining the unpredictable sounds of water are words and voices sourced from Library of Congress field recordings from the 1930s and African-themed Hollywood movies from the same period. Choir seeks to raise questions, compelling views to uncover the connections within an installation that is ever-changing physically and sonically.

Pope.L (b. 1955), Reflections of water in test tank in artist’s studio in preparation for Choir. Image courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art

Choir is accompanied by another sculptural work entitled Well, which features drinking glasses filled nearly to the brim and placed on shelves in various spaces in the Museum. While it differs in size and scale from Choir, both works address the basic human need for clean water and the resulting crisis when it is out of reach. As an artist who professes to use “lack” as material, Pope.L plays with absence and presence by creating reservoirs of varying scales that cannot be tapped and utilized.

“Water is critical to life,” says Pope.L, “yet uncritical in its interactions in the world. Water is always performing. Water always seeks its own level and, given time, dissolves almost any material with which it comes into contact. In this sense, water is a fascinating model of sociality.”

Pope.L’s exploration of water is central to his recent project Flint Water (2017). Bringing attention to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, he bottled contaminated tap water collected from one Flint home and sold the resulting works of art to raise funds to aid those living in the city. Like Flint Water, Choir demonstrates his ongoing metaphorical, political, and material investigation of water.

Pope.L., 2019 Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY

The third in the Trio is Pope.L: Member, which will take place on the third floor of Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) from October 21 through January 2020, and is part of MoMA’s Opening Season for Fall 2019.

member: Pope.L, 1978-2001

member: Pope.L, 1978–2001 focuses on a group of landmark performances that have defined the artist as a consummate agitator and humorist who has used his body to examine division and inequality on the streets and stages of New York City and in the more rustic environs of Maine, where he taught for 20 years.

The title member ponders the terms and stakes of membership for a provocateur who constantly strives “to reinvent what’s beneath us, to remind us where we all come from,” making material out of categories of race, gender, and citizenship that are intimately entwined.

About the Artist ~ Pope.L (Neward, NJ, b. 1955) is a Chicago-based, multidisciplinary visual artist and educator.