High-protein diet

Pope.L aka William Pope.L
Born 1955 in Newark, NJ
Lives in Chicago, IL

For Claim (Whitney Version), Pope.L created a grid of 2,755 slices of bologna, each affixed with a black-and-white photocopied snapshot of a person. A text mounted within the work “claims” that the number of slices corresponds to a percentage of New York’s population of 1,086,000 Jewish residents.

Pope.L’s numbers are, in his words, “a bit off.” The total number of slices indicated is off by two, and several slices have been removed. Moreover, the so-called portraits “representing” Jews were made without regard for their subjects’ cultural identities. Pope.L has previously made multiple versions within this family of works, many focusing on Black subjects. Claim (Whitney Version) plays with our tendency to project ourselves onto numbers and stokes our awareness that such counting often lays the groundwork for systematic acts of discrimination. The anxiety provoked by the work’s calculated absurdity questions the power of “big data,” raising the specter of its use for nefarious ends—from controlling whose votes are valuable, to who can enter and leave the country freely.

Note (sticker on the bologna covered wall): The varied appearance of the gutters is the result of a miscommunication among Museum staff. Pope.L has requested that the mistake not be rectified because he believes that the ensuing condition is in keeping with the overall character of the work.

Paired with:

Jon Kessler
Born 1957 in Yonkers, NY
Lives in New York, NY

Jon Kessler makes what he calls “performative sculptures,” whose humor and kitsch belie their serious critique. The two works on view in the 2017 Biennial, Exodus and Evolution, are part of a larger in-process project, The Floating World, which addresses the social and environmental impacts of climate change. In Exodus, the series of eBay-sourced figurines that rotate around a screen in an endless march are evocative of mass migrations of people, whether from natural disasters or political situations such as the Syrian refugee crisis. Evolution focuses attention on rising sea levels; two figures in snorkel gear take pictures, apparently indifferent to or ignorant of any impending danger. 

The 2017 Whitney Biennial

June 10th, 2017

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