The Ritual Is for All of us
Opening: June 3, 2022 4-6pm
Vielmetter Los Angeles is thrilled to announce our second solo exhibition with Pope.L, The Ritual Is for All of us. Following his trio of critically acclaimed exhibitions, Instigation, Aspiration, Perspiration at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Public Art Fund in 2019, this exhibition offers another look at Pope.L’s durational practice in video, projection, objects, and paintings.
The show builds a focus on Pope.L’s practice with four video works and a projection/sculpture titled I Machine, 2014 - 2020. Most of the works have been ongoing from 1995 to 2022. Duration, both in terms of time process and time embodied is key to this presentation.
In an interview for the monograph, member: Pope.L, published by The Museum of Modern Art in 2019, the artist notes that “the link between language and performance is duration; both exist only via the crucible of time and are continually remade in time.” In the exhibition, The Ritual Is For All of us, the link between language, performance, making and duration is set into slippery relation between works that unfold in time (video), works that address the passage and future of time (a set of recent Calendar paintings on paper), and the linkage between time, meaning, materiality, and entropy in a set of canned food objects fromThe Black Factory project, 2004 – ongoing.
Visitors will find the gallery space opened-up, redistributed, vexed, and transformed. A set of sheds resembling one-room shacks re-organize the space into a maze of boxes, alleys, openings, and encounters. The sheds house the video works and I Machine, as well as create path-possibilities that only the visitor can design. A persistent dripping and humming sound haunts the space. On the walls, a set of Skin Set: Calendar paintings on paper, all of which seem to include iterations of the same text in varying levels of legibility, are clearly dated in ballpoint pen. Despite the clear penmanship, the meaning of the dates is not clear – some are many years in the future or past, suggesting an uncertain relationship to time. The work Calendar is paired with cans of “Sainbury’s (UK) low price baked beans in tomato sauce” in hand-made grey compression boxes; one-time products from the mobile participatory archive of The Black Factory. The bean cans bulge and distort under sustained pressure, but do not burst. The potential, the explosion, the energy, is contained, but only just. The Black Factory is a project in which the artist and his collaborators travelled the country collecting “Black objects” from the public. A Black object does not have to be black to refer to Blackness. It’s more about the donor’s personal fantasy of Blackness within the frame of history and ideology. Some of the objects, like the cans of baked beans, were augmented and offered for sale in the Black Factory’s gift shop. The cans have been under pressure since 2005.
 Pope.L, “A conversation with Pope.L,” Comer, Stuart and Danielle A. Jackson. member: Pope.L. The Museum of Modern Art New York, 2019.
The four videos contain footage shot on VHS or pre-hi-definition digital video. Some similarities emerge between the videos: performers hands dipped in black paint that is peeling, revealing skin beneath; vinyl masks of Bush Jr. era figures: Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld; narratives connecting facts to parafacts. Pope.L says he sees this project as a reenactment of sorts that allows him to re-visit past decisions, fantasies, ignorances, and images. The videos are united in unease. They are a family of bits of each other. They are claustrophobic in time but open-ended in relation. Their narratives tell stories that are only as true as their duration. In one video, a pair in Condoleezza Rice masks enact a kink ritual using a chunky, viscous white paste in the basement of a house (working class on the outside, suburban on the inside). Upstairs, in the house, a bristling Condoleezza asserts themselves over a boy Condoleezza during a conversation about the Norman Lear-produced 1970’s TV show, Good Times. In another video, Donald Rumsfeld, his eyes slowly bleeding, reaches tentatively for a sinking ship against a backdrop of a mountain of file boxes with dates on them. At times, we hear Pope.L do a voice-over or insert a word, for ex. “brown-eye” or “Robert Smithson” or the camera pulls back to show the artist or a mystery other overseeing, directing the action—these things may seem to suggest an outside perspective or even objectivity but that would be nonsense.
I Machine is a contraption made up of two overhead projectors, one stacked on top of the other, both turned on: one projects light, one is blind. Other elements of the work are an office chair, a wooden pedestal and stand holding a reservoir of liquid, a tube that transports liquid to a glass bowl and a photo-timer which, every few minutes, releases a small amount of liquid into a bowl. A sound system amplifies the sound of the liquid’s release. Blue Post-Its speckle the contraption, almost smothering it. Some of the Post-Its have notations or drawings. I Machine superficially references the ophthalmological practice of eye dilation, the opening of the eye for examination, and “agnotology”, the study of ignorance, or the closing of the mind to information.
Pope.L tries his valiant best, in various ways, to make the elements of the exhibition to cohere into a family but he falls short and that plummet is part and parcel of his project.
Pope.L (b. 1955, Newark, NJ) is an artist whose practice resists easy categorization. Explorations of language and the absurdities of its use to name, taxonomize, and create relationships forms a core of his diverse practice which encompasses painting, drawing, performance, video, street actions, installation, theater, sculpture, and writing. His work engages iterative, social, formal and performative strategies to explore systems, race, gender and nationalisms. Most often, the resulting work is indeterminate and fertile, provoking further questions rather than easy resolution. Recent solo exhibitions include Between a Figure and a Letter, Schinkel Pavilion, Berlin; Misconceptions, Portikus, Frankfurt, Germany, Germany; and My Kingdom for a Title, Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, Chicago, IL. His work has also recently been included in group exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MI; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL. In Fall 2022 he will have a solo exhibition at de Appel Amsterdam. His work is included in many prestigious collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY among many others.
Thank you to those who participated in the making of the video works in "The Ritual Is for All of us"
Linda Vongai Taremeredzwa
Sarah S. Justin Moriarty
Bartender from “Fuel” restaurant on Lisbon St.
Linda Vongai Taremeredzwa