My Kingdom for a Title is the first exhibition to be organized at the Neubauer Collegium since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The global health emergency has unavoidably cast a shadow over the project, which contains allusions to the crisis with a degree of directness that is unusual in Pope.L’s work.
Visitors enter an immersive installation under a cloud of objects that have come to symbolize our current socio-medical predicament. The centerpiece is a selection of works chosen from Pope.L’s Skin Set Project, an ongoing series of text-based drawings and paintings featuring elliptical aphorisms that call attention to the way color is deployed to categorize people. An arrangement of medicine cabinets with mirrored doors left ajar are lit from the inside, inviting visitors to get a better look at the works contained within. The subtle play of prompts and references animates the gallery as a space where notions of access — to art, to meaning, to health care — are entangled with those of color as conventional markers of identity.
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.
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.
Curated by Dieter Roelstraete