Published: July 9, 2002
PORTLAND, MAINE – “William Pope.L: eRacism” will open at the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art (ICA at MECA) on Friday, July 26, with a public reception from 5 to 7 pm.
Critically acclaimed as one of the country’s premier African American conceptual artists, Pope.L has been called “the poet laureate of male performance artists.” This national touring exhibition will be the first comprehensive look at Pope.L’s work in all media, including performance, installation and sculpture. The exhibition, which will run through October 17 at the ICA, captured national headlines earlier this year when the National Endowment for the Arts decided not to award a grant that was approved by the agency’s review panels.
“We are thrilled to combine forces with our colleagues at DiverseWorks in Texas and PICA in Oregon to present this groundbreaking exhibition of a leading African American performance artist who lives and works in Maine,” said Mark H.C. Bessire, director of the ICA at MECA and co-curator of the exhibition. “The national touring exhibition will provide unprecedented opportunities for a wider audience to engage William’s work. Major support from national funders attests to the importance and timeliness of this project.”
Pope.L was selected this year to participate in the prestigious Whitney Biennial in New York, for which he created “Great White Way,” a year-long human crawl along Broadway that went by Ground Zero. He has also presented a series of crawls in four major European cities. His work has been featured at The Project, Sculpture Center and Threadwaxing Space in New York and Mobius in Boston.
Pope.L’s work addresses contemporary issues such as race, class and consumerism. His performance work includes his famous “crawl” pieces, also conducted in Japan, Budapest, Prague, New York’s Bowery and the Boston Common, which focus public attention on people, places and problems that are often ignored by society. His art installations use unconventional materials such as peanut butter, mayonnaise, and Pop Tarts to provoke a closer examination of the “stuff” of everyday life and to raise questions about art as a commodity.
In 2001, NEA acting chairman Robert S. Martin denied funding for the William Pope.L exhibition after the agency’s advisory review panel and National Council on the Arts recommended a grant for the project. The grant was one of two delayed by the NEA, and the only one denied. The other grant, for a production of Tony Kushner’s play “Homebody/Kabul,” was ultimately approved. The NEA’s action received national attention in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, ArtNews and Art in America.
“Eracism,” a performance work by Pope.L at the Portland Stage Company, followed by audience discussion, will take place Friday and Saturday, September 13 and 14.
The Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art, 97 Spring Street, features exhibitions and public programs that showcase new perspectives and new trends in contemporary art. For information, visit www.meca.edu.
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