LOS ANGELES – Asked by Martha Wilson about the affinity for contradiction in her work in a 1996 BOMB magazine interview, artist Pope.L pointed to his own family experiences as a clue, noting how the “desire to keep things together” continued to conflict with “this tendency for things to fall apart. “. Rather than accepting these impulses as mutually exclusive and in opposition, Pope.L, who is known for his gonzo interventions in art and life, delves into the tensions, curious to know how meaning is made in such an environment. changing and unstable. It embraces contradiction and nonsense as a single method for engaging with our social realities and understanding how these realities are structured by ideologies like racism, consumerism, etc.
I thought of Pope.L’s desire to “produce a world or an object with these kinds of tensions”, as he explained to Wilson, during a visit The ritual is for all of us, the artist’s second solo exhibition at Vielmetter Los Angeles. Between video, projection, objects and paintings, The ritual is for all of us offers another look at the legendary duration practice of Pope.L. Although often linked to his “Crawl” series – public performances that found the performer dragging his body over the asphalt of New York streets from place to place – Pope.L’s practice resists to categorization, passing from the theater to the writing via the visual. art with playful joy. Whether using a VHS camera or found objects, his work considers the slipperiness of language and time, inviting the viewer into absurd encounters that leave us contemplating our own perspectives and social conditions.
When I entered Vielmetter, I was greeted by a series of sheds, arranged throughout the space like a deconstructed maze, creating improvised paths and edges. Dripping sound filled the gallery as I inspected the hangars, unsure of what or what I was looking for. I walked around the box until I encountered one side with a beige curtain and entered a dark cube, my attention drawn to a video playing on one of the walls. “Shed Film” (2006-2022) was shot on pre-high definition mini DV and follows a non-linear frame stream. One thread concerns two characters in hazmat suits investigating mulch near a garden bed, their action intercut with close-ups of pastel flowers and scenes of two masked figures chatting away in a damp apartment. The screen then switched to an extreme close-up of a bleeding eye, with my body sinking in each time, the same feeling I get when witnessing a scary jump in a horror movie.
As I stopped in front of each shed, certain images reappeared like nagging ghosts. Many videos feature performers wearing Condoleezza Rice or Donald Rumsfeld vinyl masks. Bleeding eye, for example, returned in “APHOV” (2005-2022), which features a performer wearing a Rumsfeld mask and hands painted black, tinkering with a sinking miniature ship while crying tears of blood. “The Collective” (2007-2022) unfolded like a bizarro family sitcom, with the drama (or comedy?) centered on two masked Condeleezas pontificating on the 70s spectacle Good time, while another masked couple engaged in a messy ritual in the basement. The videos scaled a mix of tones, both goofy, disturbed, sincere and devious.
The sheds were joined by two sets of murals – acrylic paintings on paper with glossy, pasty text and a collection of cans of Salisbury baked beans contained in handmade gray squeeze boxes. Both echo ongoing projects, skin set and The black factory respectively, adding another layer of duration energy to the exposure. Skin Set: Calendar presents the same poetic fragment written in capital letters, the text happily slipping into illegibility. Most were dated 2020, but some boasted titles with future years like 2025. Whether extending time via Shed videos or confusing it like in the Calendar paintings, Pope.L plays with the instability of time and shows how harnessing this instability can unlock creative shifts in thought.
His experiments on time and language reflect this need to upset the codified rhythms of our daily lives. Like his other long-term works, The ritual is for all of us confronts us with other modes of being, erasing the constraining hierarchies that organize our lives. In the BOMB interview, Pope.L explained that he wanted to create “works that allow people to enter themselves, therefore, into the mess” of our world. This is how I felt engaging with the sheds scattered around the gallery – as if encountering the disorder of our American reality and having to construct ways to make sense of that chaos.
The ritual is for all of us continues at Vielmetter Los Angeles (1700 South Santa Fe Avenue, #101, Downtown, Los Angeles) through July 23. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.