William Pope.L snow, spraypaint, hair, sperm & baloney

Artvehicle 22/Review

18th June 2007 — 11th August 2007

Baloney. A non-such foodstuff here in London, but otherwise recognisable as a staple American sandwich-meat. It's also an utterance of doubt. At Kenny Schachter ROVE it's in its bologna-sausage form; titled 'Documentary', as part of William Pope.L's 'snow, spraypaint, hair, sperm & baloney exhibition'.

140 slices of the stuff are pinned to a wooden board on the walls. Onto the meat are photographs of 'foreign' restaurants (Café Raj, Tandoori Centre etc) located around London and captured by Pope.L. When I visited the meat had already begun to look the worse for wear, deteriorating and curling into drooping phallic shapes, taking on the texture of jelly/candy and splodged with gesso so that the photos could adhere.

There is doubt.

From the reception you can hear the sound of wind coming from the main gallery. It emanates from the piece in the middle of the room. A purpose built wooden walkway a foot above the red tiled floor leads you to it: a glass-walled structure that houses a chimney and vents. The flue of the chimney is mirrored on all sides and has a screen at the bottom looping a film - a document of Pope.L performing an endurance piece - he is crawling through the snow. There is the sound of birds. A house in the snow. The sound of children. Trees in the snow. Pope. L walking down some stairs in his superman costume carrying Mr Milk his white cat. The mirrors continually reflect and refract these images over and over. This performance, called 'Snow Crawl,' was executed over five years, and this central structure shares the name. It continues in the gallery space below in what pertains to be the base of the structure, shingle clad with a solitary window.

On two of the walls of the main room are the baloney, also there are two plants in pots attached high on the remaining wall ('Household Artifact 1', & 'Household Artifact 2'), these have been rigorously spraypainted with black, blue and green. These are 'UK versions' and they're a contiguity of the home-like details of basic food, basic shelter, and base materials that populate this exhibition.

In the rooms at the back of the gallery are the 'Sperm Pictures' and more paint-logged plants. The 'Sperm Pictures' series are photos of original collages that have been enlarged and contain all Pope.L's favourite household detritus; carpet fluff/pubic hair, animal hair, wire, sperm, tin foil, ash etc. The titles are nebulous; 'Petmaster,' or 'Professional Hand,' but perhaps are hinting at something (his white cat? a joke about masturbation?) It is this hinting and unrevealing that continues throughout and causes the doubt.

In Pope.L's catalogue essay 'On Versions' he encourages the originality of 'versions', and you would have to agree, however the print editions of the Sperm Pictures, rather than the 'originals' are the highlight for me. These blown-up photos of the matted collages are far more interesting, (though only in a shallow, visual sense, of course) in both their scale and the odd photographed shadowing that occurs through to the levelling flatness of the C-print paper.

Pope.L is pretty straightforward as to what he is preoccupied with: themes and politics of race, identity and class, along with the simple conflict of the everyday.

There are also issues of time and decay looming over this exhibition - the five year crawling project, the newly built shingle structure and chimney juxtaposed with the rotting baloney, the now ancient unusable semen flecked across the collages.

Similar to his earlier work; the interventionist performance of his travelling Black Factory and also in his previous show at ROVE, 'some things you can do with blackness ...' are the problems of understanding simply on a base level - this is not just about 'blackness', but blacknesses - there is no delineating formula.

Again, with the 'whiteness' - the illusory nature of the white of the paint on the baloney, the sperm in the sperm pictures, the white of the snow. The black superman struggling through a sea of white. Dead black trees in an all white landscape. The white sea surrounds the island collages of black/white people/animals.

This can appear to be obvious imagery that is constructing his depictions of race and identity, but skewed, because they are also ironic anti-notions of identity and race.


Kenny Schachter ROVE
33-34 Hoxton Square
London N1 6NN

William Pope.L snow, spraypaint, hair, sperm & baloney —