Born 1954, United States. Lives & Works in United States.
William Pope L uses performance, theatre, installation and sculpture to take on the contemporary issues of class, consumerism and culturally embedded racism with a blend of dark humour and gawky awkwardness. Work through mediums such as peanut butter, mayonnaise, and tapioca pudding, he provokes a closer examination of the glue of everyday life to question the idea of art and artist as commodity - like an African-American shaman to re-ritualise the everyday.
The manner in which he addresses social issues is demonstrated in his Eating the Wall Street Journal performance, where he sat on a stack of newspapers in a Boston financial district, eating the pages and drinking milk. In another performance piece The Great White Way, Pope. L crawled his way from the Battery north through Manhattan dressed in a Superman outfit. Although his performances can be seen as controversial, his work promotes conversation rather than confrontation.
William contributed three pieces of work to the Grizedale project Romantic Detachment in 2004. White Room #1/ Blacula was an sculptural video piece based upon the Blaxploitation classic of the same name as part of the exhibition at PS1/MoMA. For White Room # 2 /Moby Dick, William developed a project for the isolated community of Roosevelt Island in New York, in which he dressed as an orange yeti and climbed to the top of the island's lighthouse to read Moby Dick over a PA system whilst dropping goldfish to the ground below.
The performance Musical Appreciation saw William forming a supergroup comprising of his white English fellow exhibiting artists (Juneau/ projects, Mark S Gubb and David Blandy). The group dressed up as Gene Simmons look-alikes and performed Prince's 1999 repeatedly for 30 mins, whilst a character called 'The Funkmseister' called upon the audience to throw gelatinous white chocolate pudding at the band as they played. This made a mess of the gallery which caused PS1/MoMA to get cross with Grizedale, again.
William later returned to work with Grizedale developing a commissioned film project for www.agrifashionista.tv in which he generated a global online collaboration between several convenience stores across the world. The film explores the corner shop communities of Maine (USA), Adana (Turkey) & Shoreditch (London), carving an existence on the edges of the mainstream.
William is a law unto himself, and will do what William does. This is in many ways a traditional artist's role, always moving away from categorization, always reinforcing the notion of artistic freedom, and - in William's case -always moving away from interpretation of his activity. His performances are deliberately incomprehensible. William's role within the project will in many ways be that of a chaos monger, he will be interviewee, critique and performer all at the same time. Try to analyse him or his work and he changes tack and slips away.
In the words of Ralph Merritt of Egremont Regeneration Partnership, "William can come and strap himself with sausages to our cash machine anytime he likes".
2010 Landscape + Object + Animal, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York City, NY
Color Isn't Matter , Samson Projects, Boston, MA
2009 William Pope.L - Kenny Schachter / ROVE Projects LLP, London (England)
2007 Art After White People: Time, Trees, & Celluloid..., Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica
The Black Factory and Other Good Works, Yerba Buena, San Francisco
2006 Trophy Room, Kunsthalle Wien, Austria
2010 FAX, Para/Site Art Space, Hong Kong, SAR
The Last Newspaper, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York City, NY
2009 Black Is, Black Ain't, H&R Block Artspace at Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, MO
2008 Retail Value, Dorsky Gallery, Long Island City, New York
2007 Holiday, Prague Quadrennial, Prague, Czech Republic
Conceptual Paper, Arndt & Partner Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
2006 Civil Restitutions, curated by Jeffrey Uslip and Simon Preston, Thomas Dane Gallery, London
2002 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
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