On September 21, Public Art Fund will present Conquest, Pope.L’s largest group performance to date. Inspired by the artist’s iconic crawls in which he dragged his body across the urban landscape, Conquest will navigate the streets of Downtown Manhattan continuing the irreverent tradition of his more than 30 performative works that have taken place since 1978. In this iteration, a group of 100+ volunteer participants that reflect the cultural and demographic diversity of New York City will crawl in relay a nearly 1.5 mile-long route from the well-to-do West Village to the new granite steps of Union Square via the triumphal arch of Washington Square Park. In choosing to give up their physical privilege, participants satirize their own social and political advantage, creating a comic scene of struggle and vulnerability to share with the entire community. Public Art Fund’s presentation will be the artist’s most ambitious yet, putting on full display the power and contradictions of collective expression. Pope.L: Conquest will take place on Saturday, September 21 in Downtown Manhattan.
“Working at the margins of the mainstream art world for decades, Pope.L has created a profound and compelling body of work unlike that of any of his contemporaries,” says Nicholas Baume, Director and Chief Curator of Public Art Fund. “Deeply engaged with performance, visual arts and language, Pope.L’s boundary crossing work takes on the myths of American culture, provoking us to see ourselves and the forces that shape us with bracing clarity. As an epic group undertaking, Conquest promises to extend the richly layered metaphors around race, power and vulnerability in his solo crawls to further explore diversity, collectivity, struggle and achievement.”
Beginning at Corporal John A. Seravalli Playground in the West Village, the relay-style crawl will unfold over five hours on sidewalks and through a series of parks. Participants will be organized in groups of five, with each group crawling one of the 25-block segments that comprise the route. When the first crawler in a group reaches the end of their block, they will be relieved by the first participant in the next group, forming a blocks-long relay that emphasizes the interconnectedness of all people. Participants will be encouraged to crawl in a way that challenges them most and speaks to their ability level, whether military style, hands and knees, or another variation. To further challenge participants, each will crawl with props including a blindfold and flashlight, and will be asked to crawl with one shoe, effectively emphasizing each of their personal struggles, while altering their experience as they crawl together. Pope.L will walk alongside the crawlers, giving support where needed yet allowing the focus to remain on the group of crawlers. From Seravalli Playground, the performance will travel east, past Jackson Square, through the NYC AIDS Memorial on Greenwich Avenue and then Washington Square Park, before turning north to finish at Union Square Park. Situated in several of Manhattan’s most historic neighborhoods, the route draws attention to power dynamics, privilege, and cultural representation in the city, while the crawlers build off of each other’s grueling efforts to complete the challenging course.
“The crawl is an absurd journey to an uncertain goal,” Pope.L says. “The raw physical struggle of the journey suggests homelessness and a loss of hope and status but takes place in a tree-lined upscale environment where wealth, speed, and verticality are king… What sort of progress is this performance? Is it a comedy of errors or business as usual or a critical mirror held up to a great American past-time called success?”
An open call for participants will be made later this month, and volunteer performers will be selected by Pope.L to reflect the city’s diversity with regards to age, race, and ability, and to include people of different professions and socioeconomic backgrounds, from all five boroughs and beyond. Details on the exact timing of the performance will be released later this summer.
Conquest is the free, outdoor component of Pope.L: Instigation, Aspiration, Perspiration – a trio of complementary exhibitions organized by Public Art Fund, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Museum of Modern Art. Addressing the artist’s boundary-breaking practice, the three-institution season of Pope.L’s work utilizes both public and private spaces, and will address issues and themes ranging from language and gender, to race, social struggle, and community.
Pope.L has perfected crawling as his particular kind of disruption. He has traversed a substantial portion of New York City (and parts of Europe) on his hands, knees, stomach, and elbows, wearing everything from a Superman costume to a sports jersey and Nike sneakers. For his inaugural crawl, in 1978, the artist slowly made his way down Forty-second Street, passing Times Square, wearing a pin-striped suit with a yellow square stitched onto its back.
In 1978, Pope.L got on his hands and knees in a suit and safety vest, and made his way through the bustling crowds of Midtown Manhattan. Titled Times Square Crawl a.k.a. Meditation Square Piece, his performance combined a disturbance in public space with abjection and perverse humor, setting the tone for his subsequent experiments with what it means to make art and move through the world as a black man.
Since the late 1970s, Pope.L has worked in performance, video, drawing, installation, sculpture and teaching, troubling facile readings of the machinations that govern the relationships between race, labour, capitalism and materiality. His practice traverses genres in an attempt to reckon with everything from the tenuousness of Black masculinity in public space to the lingering economic effects of post-industrial America.
The Chicago-based adept Pope.L is a triple threat in New York this fall, with concurrent shows at the Whitney and moma and a recent Public Art Fund performance for which some hundred and fifty participants put their bodies through punishing paces, re-creating one of his legendary mile-long crawls. Pope.L’s Manhattan gallery pays homage to his body-centric concerns in this dynamic exhibition, which combines text works from his series “Skin Sets” with paintings by a trio of young rising stars: Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Cheyenne Julien, and Tschabalala Self.
In New York, verticality is the definitive modus operandi. Both buildings and people perpetually strive skyward, driven by tenuous dreams of upward mobility. “But, let us imagine,” the American artist Pope.L proposed to fellow artist Martha Wilson in 1996, “a person who has a job, possesses the means to remain vertical, but chooses momentarily to give up that verticality?”
I lowered my blindfold and got on my hands and knees. Walkie talkies beeped and clipboards clacked. “We’ll be right here if you need anything,” a staffer assured me, stowing my belongings in a rolling cart. “We want to make sure you are safe and comfortable.” I did feel relatively comfortable, considering I was about to crawl along a New York City sidewalk—blindfolded, holding a flashlight, and wearing only one shoe.
Five men and women, each missing a shoe and encumbered with a flashlight in one hand, came belly down to the ground. They began to crawl along the gritty, unsavory New York City sidewalk, led by a marshal perfuming the air and sweeping the ground before them — and serenaded by a trumpeter playing melancholic riffs. The procession stopped traffic and drew people out of shops and restaurants, wondering what was going on.
The crawlers knew where to go by following the sound of a trumpet.
It was bright and early in New York at Corporal John A. Seravalli Playground when a group was congregating to kick off Conquest, artist Pope.L’s performance in which participants would drag themselves across a predetermined path. Organized by the Public Art Fund, this was a new work in a lineage of past “crawl” pieces by Pope.L, who was on hand on Saturday to tell the crowd that he hoped to cause a stir.
Starting at 9:45am on Saturday, winding up in the gutter will take on literal meaning as 140 complete strangers get on their bellies to crawl in the street while fellow New Yorkers cheer them on. No, this isn’t some mas[s]ochistic exercise: It’s a performance piece orchestrated by the multi-media artist known as Pope.L. Conquest, as it’s called, is part of a series of crawls that Pope.L has undertaken over his 40-year career, though it represents something of a departure, since he previously conducted them on his own.
Conquest, Pope.L’s most recent performance project, engages his largest and most public cast to date. Commissioned by the Public Art Fund (PAF), the September 21st “crawl” is also more procedurally detailed, and more apparently and explicitly mocking, than previous crawls. When I spoke with Pope.L in late summer, he insisted he was not participating in the crawl, but just as soon acknowledged that he has never been able to keep himself from crawling, at least a little bit, alongside the participants.
The interdisciplinary artist Pope.L is the creator of several now-legendary performance-art works that explore the conditions of abjection, black masculinity, and racism with bracing irony. On September 21, 2019, he will orchestrate his latest iteration of these pieces in Lower Manhattan: Entitled Conquest, this performance will involve 140 participants.
This Saturday, 140 New Yorkers will get down and seriously dirty in the filthy streets of Manhattan as they crawl on all fours for the sake of a bizarre performance piece about “physical privilege” by veteran “crawl artist” Pope.L. Participants will provide onlookers with an unsettling scene as they slither along a winding, 1 1/2-mile route that starts at Cpl. John A. Seravalli Playground in the West Village and ends on the south steps of Union Square Park, according to a press release.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever crawled in New York, but being that low to the ground, you experience all kinds of things,” says Pope.L. And he would know — the 64-year-old performance artist has decades of experience crawling at this point. For his latest piece, “Conquest,” the Newark native recruited some 140 strangers from various boroughs, walks of life, ages, and abilities to crawl, in a relay format, the 25 city blocks from the Corporal John A. Seravalli Playground in the West Village to Union Square.
As New York’s museums and galleries gear up for their fall and winter rosters, there’s a seasonal sense of anticipation that accompanies all these interlocking proceedings. You never know who or what will emerge from the flurry of offerings to produce something truly essential, and it’s clear that the Whitney Museum of American art, MoMA and the Public Art Fund are confident that “Instigation, Aspiration and Perspiration,” their collective exhibition with the interventionist performance artist Pope.L, will prove to be a deeply thoughtful project. Born in Newark, NJ, Pope.L has spent decades making art that interrogates what cities can produce and who metropolitan areas can disempower.
Since the 1970s, the artist known as Pope.L has made works that explore racism, poverty, class inequality and consumerism in ways that are sometimes satirical, often biting, but always strangely moving. He is best identified by his “crawls,” in which he drags himself, positioned on his stomach — occasionally dressed in a business suit or as Superman, either alone or with a large group of participants — along the path of a city street. His most ambitious performance of this nature will be on Saturday in New York City: More than 100 people will crawl a one-and-a-half-mile-long route from the West Village to Union Square, passing through the arch of Washington Square Park.
Pope.L: Instigation, Aspiration, Perspiration, an ambitious triumvirate of exhibitions by the Public Art Fund, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Museum of Modern Art, erupts Saturday with Conquest, his biggest group performance, involving some 140 to 160 people representing the city’s diversity in every manner from race and socioeconomics to range of mobility.
A performance piece in which 140 people will crawl through Greenwich Village is set for Saturday — recreating the artist Pope.L's iconic crawling pieces in New York City.
The performance piece, called "Conquest," forces hand-selected volunteers from a variety of professional backgrounds to crawl through Manhattan's sidewalks, "abandoning their physical privilege, embracing their vulnerability, and expressing the power of collective expression."
Pope.L will give a Public Art Fund Talk on Fri., Sept. 20, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., at The Cooper Union, Rose Auditorium, 41 Cooper Union Square, at E. Sixth St. Visual artist and educator Pope.L’s lecture coincides with a major moment for him, when three New York City arts organizations — Public Art Fund, Whitney Museum of American Art and The Museum of Modern Art — will co-present “Instigation, Aspiration, Perspiration,” the title of a singular concept linking a trio of complementary exhibitions: “Conquest,” “Choir” and “member,” which explore Pope.L’s boundary-pushing practice.
After winning the Whitney’s $100,000 Bucksbaum Award in 2017, Pope.L hits the New York institutional trifecta with an extravaganza of three upcoming shows. The Museum of Modern Art will mount a retrospective of the activist-sculptor-painter-provocateur’s work from 1978 to 2001 — including videos of the epic crawls he did on his belly through the streets of New York City dressed as an African-American superhero. Also stay tuned for a mass performance of over 100 volunteers of all races crawling together through the Washington Square arch to Union Square.
We’ve already put together guides to knockout institutional shows to see across the US this fall and what you need to check out in Europe, so now it’s time to take a look at what’s going on this season in museums in New York, where you’re never far from a great exhibition.
This September, as galleries and museums hope to kick off the fall art season with a bang, African-American artists are leading the most highly anticipated openings. Betye Saar has a show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, followed by one next month at the Museum of Modern Art. Pope.L will be triply honored in New York, with exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art and, in October, MoMA; he’ll also present one of his grueling performances, organized by the Public Art Fund.
ART IN THE 2010S… IS IT EVEN ART? WHAT WILL BE REMEMBERED? WHAT’S BEING REAPPRAISED? WHAT’S COMING NEXT? WHAT MUST WE SAY GOODBYE TO? FOR THE LAST TIME THIS DECADE, LET’S WELCOME A NEW SEASON OF SHOWS IN NEW YORK.
In 1991, the artist Pope.L dragged himself and a potted flower through Tompkins Square Park (Tompkins Square Crawl). The next year, while wearing a Santa hat, he spent three days trying to lift a bottle of laxatives with his mind (Levitating the Magnesia). In 2000, he gorged on copies of the Wall Street Journal and then puked them up (Eating the Wall Street Journal). In 2015, he raised a giant US flag in Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, where it flew until it began to fray (Trinket).
This fall, Manhattan’s most prestigious contemporary art spaces unite to celebrate the career-to-date of the renowned (and underappreciated) artist known as Pope.L.
In a little less than two months, you may see a squadron of New Yorkers slithering through the triumphal arch of Washington Square Park on their hands and knees.
Prepare yourself, because William Pope.L is coming to town.
Pope.L Wants You to Crawl With Him – The storied performance artist Pope.L is looking for 100 volunteers to crawl a 1.5 mile course with him across New York, from the West Village through the triumphal arch in Washington Square Park to Union Square, on September 21. The artist says the performance, titled Conquest and organized with the Public Art Fund, is “an absurd journey to an uncertain goal.” Pope.L has been doing his physically demanding crawls since the 1970s as a way to evoke the extreme exposure that homeless people experience on the streets of the city.
The artist Pope.L, who has a trio of shows opening this autumn at three major New York Museums, will put out an open call this month for 100 volunteers to take part in a 1.5-mile performative crawl across the city, presented by the Public Art Fund on 21 September.