Pope.L: My Kingdom for a Title

Pope.L: My Kingdom for a Title

Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society

Pope.L, Praises, 2020. Courtesy of the artist. 

December 16, 2020
My Kingdom for a Title
January 21–April 2, 2021
Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
The University of Chicago
5701 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60637
United States

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“An exhibition is a favorite darkness.” —Pope.L

My Kingdom for a Title is the first exhibition to be organized at the Neubauer Collegium Gallery since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The continuing global health emergency has unavoidably cast a shadow over the conception and development of this project; equally inevitably, it will also alter the viewer’s experience of the work, restricting access to the gallery in a manner that complicates the project’s allusion to the mirage of access as such. Visitors to the gallery will enter the space under the literal cloud of objects that have come to symbolize our current socio-medical predicament. The centerpiece of Pope.L’s immersive installation is an arrangement of works chosen from the artist’s Skin Set Project (ongoing since 1997). The resultant environment functions as a poignant meditation on the tangle of access, “color,” and well-being, conjured in the artist’s signature register of “enigmaticalness”—the fount of so much that continues to be great in these trying times for art.

Pope.L (b. 1955 in Newark, NJ), who has referred to himself as “a fisherman of social absurdity,” is a Chicago-based visual artist and educator whose multidisciplinary practice uses binaries, contraries, and preconceived notions embedded within contemporary culture to create artworks in a wide variety of formats such as installation, painting, performance, sculpture, video, and writing. Building upon a long history of enacting arduous, provocative performances and interventions in public spaces, Pope.L applies 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—though not necessarily in that order.

Pope.L studied at the Pratt Institute in New York 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 took place in the streets, culminating in the emblematic performance The Great White Way, 2001–09, in which he crawled the length of Manhattan’s Broadway dressed as Superman. They have since been staged in many leading art venues and historical sites around the world. Recent exhibitions, performances, and projects include Instigation, Aspiration, Perspiration, a trio of complementary exhibitions organized by the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Public Art Fund in New York in 2019; Flint Water Project at What Pipeline in Detroit in 2019; Brown People Are the Wrens in the Parking Lot at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts in 2018; The Escape at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2018; Whispering Campaign at documenta 14 in Athens, Greece, and Kassel, Germany, in 2017; the 78th Whitney Biennial in New York in 2017; the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo in 2016; The Freedom Principle at the Museum Contemporary Art Chicago in 2015; Trinket at The Geffen Contemporary, Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles in 2015; Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, CAM Houston, and Studio Museum in New York in 2014; and Forlesen at the Renaissance Society in Chicago in 2013.

My Kingdom for a Title is the most recent chapter in an evolving dialogue, now in its sixth year, between Neubauer Collegium Curator Dieter Roelstraete and Pope.L, a professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago. The exhibition will be accompanied by an essay recasting Hubert Damisch’s A Theory of /Cloud/ in the raking light of the Airborne Droplet/George Floyd era.

Gallery open by appointment only.

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Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
December 16, 2020

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