Currently on at both of Mitchell-Innes & Nash’s New York locations, artist Pope.L presents an exploration of various projects both current at historical at its Chelsea exhibition space and uptown gallery. Pope.L’s practice often focuses on the uncertain but productive space between differences in language, class, race, and gender to create works that simultaneously enlist, mock and re-write convention. For Pope.L this gap is where ignorance, the unknown, or the unintended collides with human meaning and, even hubris to create fresh tensions around authenticity, self and icon.
The works on view in One thing after another (part two), the show on view at the 26th Street Chelsea space, are presented as an exercise in doubt, in experiment, and even denial, as the artist himself notes. The show features a dozen of his large-scale Re-Photo collages, in which the artist has manipulated images of parts, mostly body parts, combining them with fragments from various print media to create “figural encounters.” Layering and twisting the body itself onto large flat sheets of paper, the artist works to undermine easy readings of artistic authorship while simultaneously deconstructing and reconstructing the body and the art work’s relationship to it. The work is indicative of a body in flux, a phenomenon the artist describes as an attempt to hold itself in cohesion under the pressure of the world outside it. Ultimately, Pope.L proposes just what a systemic breakdown might look like, a body bursting at its seams from sheer force of change. These are accompanied by a set of wall-mounted acrylic boxes filled with bags of fertilizer and paint, each bag plastered with a photocopied image of a smiling Martin Luther King Jr. Posing a particularly somber meditation on the “monument,” or perhaps its possibility in the modern era, the artist questions just what the function of history and remembrance is at this politically fraught juncture.
On view uptown, the artist’s series Circa is a set of 24 paintings in the continuity of his previous Skin Set Paintings and the Skin Set Drawings, an ongoing body of works initiated in 1997. Twisting meaning and context through textual subversions and the actual act of putting paint to canvas, the artist blends together words like Syria or Nirvana, linguistic fragments caught up in an increasingly complex web of significations and implications in a global network of conflicts, cultural elements and active agents. Presented here, they seem bound up in an act of decomposition, slowly bleeding and melting into each other.
Pictorially, the paintings in Circa sit ambiguously between the painterly effects of the Abstract Expressionists and the loose, raw effects of Arte Povera, mixing in explorations of poetics and conceptual action that ultimately present them as distinctly positioned in the modern era. As Pope.L seems to emphasize throughout both shows, one cannot avoid the strange, challenging fragmentations of our modern world. Rather, we must dive into the gulf of meaning, searching for solid ground on which to rebuild.
The shows close October 27th.
— C. Reinhart