The South London Gallery is deeply saddened by the recent death of the brilliant artist and educator, Pope.L (1955–2023) whose wide ranging practice spanned writing, painting, performance, installation, sculpture and video. His current exhibition across the SLG’s Main Space and Fire Station galleries provides a poignant opportunity to reflect on the work of a truly important and influential artist. Hospital is Pope.L’s first solo exhibition in a London institution.
“I believe art re-ritualizes the everyday to reveal something fresh about our lives. This revelation is a vitality and it is a power to change the world.” – Pope.L
With roots in philosophy and theatre, Pope.L’s career since the 1970s centred on society, politics and contemporary culture. The work often reveals contradictory and provocative themes in language, gender, race, economics and community.
Pope.L’s exhibition brings together a set of installations and interventions, all of which are reconfigurations of previous works. In the Main Gallery three large-scale wooden towers are in states of gradual collapse. They are a reworking of the towers on top of which the artist, wearing only a jock strap and covered in flour, sat on a toilet and consumed newspaper pages in his performance, Eating the Wall Street Journal, 2000. For this latest version Pope.L removed the live performance element, shifting the focus to the dynamic of the toppling tower structures and viewers’ capacity to imagine what might have happened or what is still to come.
Further installations across the four galleries in the SLG’s Fire Station explore ideas of memory, decay, forgetfulness, convalescence or mourning. The artist described them as “sites where personal and institutional metaphors of care metastasize into scenes of spills, shelves with holes, fallen towers, broken bottles, dripping liquids, always something ongoing, always something undone and wanting fixed with dust or stains or trampled flowers. Hospital is that sensation of lying on your back on a stretcher in a hallway staring at the veins in the ceiling above while it stares right back“.
★★★★ – Time Out
There is a loud sound work in the Main Gallery. Every Wednesday from 7.30-8.30pm, there will be a quiet hour where this work does not play.
Pope.L (also known as William Pope.L; b.1955, Newark, New Jersey) was an artist who lived and worked in Chicago and was best known for his provocative performances and public installations. While centering on themes such as gender and race, his works explore the systems, conflicts, and beliefs inherent to our society and culture. Pope.L studied at Pratt Institute and Montclair State College, where he received a BA in 1978. He also participated in the Independent Study Program at the Whitney and received an MFA in 1981 from Rutgers University. His works have been exhibited at many significant institutions, including the Anthology Film Archives, Franklin Furnace, Artist Space, Museum of Modern Art, New Museum, Performa, The Sculpture Center, the 2002 and 2017 Whitney Biennials, the Carpenter Center in Boston and the Geffen at MOCA Los Angeles.
Pope.L, Provocative Performance Artist, Dies at 68 – The New York Times
Exhibition supported by
Lead donor: Simon Nixon
Gallery support: Modern Art, London; Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York; Vielmetter Los Angeles
Exhibition donors: Shane Akeroyd; De Ying Foundation; Elie Khouri Art Foundation; Jill and Peter Kraus
Additional support from the Pope.L Exhibition Supporters’ Circle
The South London Gallery is a charity, all donations, large or small, make a difference.
- There is a loud sound work in the Main Gallery. Every Wednesday from 7.30-8.30pm, there will be a quiet hour where this work does not play.
- There are bright lights, both LEDs and strip lighting.
- One of the rooms is dark, with no over head lighting. Visitors are invited to use torches to explore the artwork.
- At the doorways to two of the galleries, there are red, butcher curtains that need to be pulled back. Please ask a member of staff if you need them to be pushed aside for you.