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September 21, 2019

Public Art Fund, New York, NY

This image illustrates a link to the exhibition titled Pope.L: Conquest


Press Release

Public Art Fund to present Pope.L’s largest and most ambitious group crawl, September 21 in Downtown Manhattan, featuring 100+ participants crawling 1.5 miles presented as part of Instigation, Aspiration, Perspiration a three-institution exhibition with the Museum of Modern Art & The Whitney Museum of American Art.

Pope.L: Conquest

September 21, 2019

West Village, Greenwich Village, Union Square in New York City

July 22, 2019, NEW YORK, NY—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: Conquest is curated by Public Art Fund Director & Chief Curator Nicholas Baume, with Public Art Fund Assistant Curator Katerina Stathopoulou.

@PublicArtFund #PopeLNYC #Conquest


Pope.L (b. 1955, Newark, NJ) is a visual artist and educator whose multidisciplinary practice uses binaries, contraries and preconceived notions embedded within contemporary culture to create art works in various formats including writing, painting, performance, installation, video and sculpture. Building upon his long history of enacting arduous, provocative, absurdist 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.

Pope.L studied at Pratt and later received his BA from Montclair State College in 1978. He also attended the Whitney Independent Study Program before earning his MFA from Rutgers University in 1981. Pope.L was Lecturer of Theater and Rhetoric at Bates College in Lewiston,

Maine until 2007 when he joined the faculty in the Visual Arts Department at The University of Chicago, where he is currently Director of Undergraduate Studies for Visual Arts. Pope.L is represented by Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.


As the leader in its field, Public Art Fund brings dynamic contemporary art to a broad audience in New York City and beyond by mounting ambitious free exhibitions of international scope and impact that offer the public powerful experiences with art and the urban environment.


Leadership support for Pope.L: Conquest is provided by Sarah Arison & Thomas Wilhelm, Fotene Demoulas & Tom Cote, Anne & Joel Ehrenkranz, Jill & Peter Kraus, Jennifer & Matthew Harris, and Mitchell-Innes & Nash.

Special thanks to the Office of the Mayor and NYC Parks.

Public Art Fund is supported by the generosity of individuals, corporations, and private foundations including lead support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, along with major support from Booth Ferris Foundation, the Charina Endowment Fund, The Marc Haas Foundation, Hartfield Foundation, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Donald A. Pels Charitable Trust, and The Silverweed Foundation. Generous support is also provided by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc.

Public Art Fund exhibitions and programs are also supported in part with public funds from government agencies, including the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.


Kellie Honeycutt | 212.223.7810 | |

Allegra Thoresen | 212.223.7807 | |

Grace Halio | 212.223.7074 | |

Image Credits:

Pope.L, 2019

Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY